BARBARA KINGSOLVER IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. We’ve spoken previously of my love for A Year of Doing X memoirs, and this is that at the TOP OF ITS GAME. Because the point of these books, if there is one, is that the author Learns Something, and that the reader, by extension and without having to sacrifice a year of their lives in hilarious pursuits, Learns Something as well.
Only this isn’t just gimmicky times. Kingsolver and her family are on an honest, earnest, genuine endeavor and you can’t help but HUG said endeavor. Ok so. They move to a farm, spend a few years gearing up (planting shit, scoping out locally-raised cattle, looking for a MILL TO GRIND THEIR WHEAT, standard operating procedure) and then spend a year eating only what they can grow themselves or buy from their neighbors. It is ambitious.
And there are interesting chewy bits (see below) but also A,V,M is a JOY to read. THE FIRST PAGE she’s talking about how they’re leaving home, and she’s all, ‘The desert that day looked like a nasty case of prickly heat caught in a long, naked wince’ and ‘The tall, dehydrated saguaros stood around all teetery and sucked-in like very prickly supermodels’ and I am like BARBARA I LOVE YOUR BRAIN.
But she isn’t just yammering, for all that she’s so conversational. At one point, for reasons I won’t get into, she’s talking about the freedom of living in America ‘without some drudge scolding: “You don’t know where that’s been!” And boy howdy, we do not.’ And then she goes off about how we got to this place where our children don’t know that vegetables grow in dirt or that milk comes from cows or that BEEF comes from cows and you are like, Get your shit together, Us.
Because Kingsolver has feels about local food, but she also has thinks about it, and numbery fact-bits, and part of my beef with The Heavy was that I read it just after I read this, and Weiss keeps being like, I’m not a scientist so anecdotal gut feeling etc, and I’m like, BK-solver isn’t a scientist either but she is like, RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE AND REASONED ARGUMENT.
And it is compelling. I don’t even want to touch it because I won’t do it justice, about how commodity crops are bred for standardized appearance and hardiness of travel and not for taste, which is why we all hate our vegetables (and I read that very chapter and then went to the store and was like, OH LOOK, cherry tomatoes, and I got them home and they tasted like sad, droopy winter, and I was like, Barbara was right) and how modern turkeys can’t even reproduce by themselves and I was like, Oh my god we are halfway to Margaret Atwood and her ChickieNobs already.
I think what won me over the most is how gentle she is. She’s talking about busy lives vs healthy eating and how, ‘if fast food is the only way to get kids to their healthy fresh-air soccer practice on time, that’s an interesting call.’ If it had been me making that point I would have been like, DUMB MOVE, SOCCER MOMS. And then put in a gif of Honey Boo Boo pulling a face, or something. There’s a reason BK is a Published Author and I am On The Internet.
And through all this reasoned argumenting is her family, planting zucchini and canning tomatoes and raising chickens and it’s bucolic and hilarious and hard and I just, I wanted to kiss the whole thing in the face.
This probably isn’t a perfect book, but it’s the perfect book for me. Nine caterpillars.