Kitchen Tip for Local, Seasonal Meals: Book Reviews

I recently just read through two wonderful books written by families who chose (in varying degrees) to limit their meals to local, seasonal foods: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, and Plenty, by Alisa Smith & J.B. Mackinnon.

(As a side note, these books are not written from a Christian perspective, and have some “objectionable” language and evolutionary perspectives.)  However, they are a very honest picture into the year of each family’s life.  
Each book inspired me to continue in our goal of eating locally/seasonally.  In both books, the authors began their local food journeys in early spring (and suggested later, it possibly should have begun in August!).  They highlighted the necessity of storing/canning staples for use in the winter- which needs to begin in the summer.  
In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the family choses to garden extensively, along with raising poultry.  Their adventures on this journey were amusing as well as educational.  Many seasonal recipes are provided in the book.  They also purchased items from local farmers- even to cater a large event for 150 people solely with local food!  However, they chose to allow themselves the allowances of  staples (oils, vinegars, spices, etc.) that were not local.  
I actually appreciated the perspective of Plenty a bit more, as their lifestyle seemed similar to mine, currently.  They were living in a one bedroom apartment most of the time, with the occasional visit to a rural cabin, and had to store their food within their apartment.  They resided in the Pacific Northwest area, near Vancouver B.C., so their climate and resources are similar to mine.  (For example, people living in this area have access to seafood, hazelnuts, and sea plants, but not Florida citrus fruits.)  Alisa & J.B. grew limited items in a small community garden (mostly greens and herbs), and rode around the community on bikes or their tiny car, visiting farms and Farmer’s Markets.  
Alisa & J.B. did not buy any non-local items, relying upon butter instead of oil, and a year-long search for wheat persisted.  (I loved their final solution for salt at the end of the book!)  I was disappointed that Barbara Kingsolver never made the mayonnaise recipe she had saved for years.  I’ve discovered that mayonnaise is actually not that difficult to make, and would have been delicious with her farm-fresh eggs!  
In Plenty, the couple realized that a local vegan diet was virtually impossible while trying to be ecologically-minded, and initially began adding dairy and eggs to their meals.  Eventually, they added seafood, and even some red meat to their freezer.  Potatoes were an ever-present staple (and a good source of vitamin C!).  
Alisa & J.B. did purchase alcoholic beverages, but they were all locally made.  Other than that, they tried to maintain financially-responsible purchases (after an initial sticker-shocking dinner of over $120!).  They confirmed the idea that seasonal, local foods can be affordable (and saved money by not buying packaged products).  
Both families attempted cheese-making, and a wonderful mozzarella recipe is available in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I was disappointed that Barbara Kingsolver’s extensive research did not include the benefits of raw milk.  She never realized that some “lactose-intolerant” people can actually drink raw milk, and thus refused it when offered to her (although she admitted it looked appetizing).  Alisa and J.B. visited a raw milk dairy in Washington, but worried about border crossing regulations back into Canada!  
Barbara Kingsolver’s daughter, Camille, also shared her insights on this lifestyle, as she balanced between the abundance at home, and the limits of college life.  I’m not sure why she didn’t attempt the easy tasks she missed so much, such as making yogurt or meals in the dorm- perhaps no student kitchen was provided?  When I was in college, I cooked all my own meals, but maybe that is unusual.  
Barbara Kingsolver’s husband, Steven, was the baker in their family.  He would mix up loaves of bread, creating different nutritional delights.  (However, no bread recipes are shared.)  There is a good-looking sourdough recipe in Plenty, though.  
Each family ended their year with a very balanced perspective on their meals, and a new appreciation for fresh food.  
If you are looking for inspiration and ideas on preparing/obtaining local foods, in order to live frugally and sustainably, I definitely recommend these two books.  They would be wonderful resources for meal-planning and food-preserving.  
I find that I am a better keeper of our home when I continue to learn.  I regularly research local food options, preparation techniques, and nutritional tips.  I recommend looking around your local area- you may find an incredible abundance of resources and provisions, that will become new staples in your kitchen.  
You can also find additional information at their websites:

For more Kitchen Tip Tuesday ideas, visit Tammy’s Recipes!

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