Bookworm

I’ve read more books than ever this year. And anyone who knows anything about me knows that this is a pretty big deal… mostly because I read a LOT. 2008-2011 were pretty dreary years for me, mostly because I didn’t have time to read anything that wasn’t a dry, uninspiring textbook filled with teeny tiny fonts and a cracked spine.

But 2012 was different. I’ve been lucky to have learned so much on so many different subjects throughout the past year. I still remember being curled up in flannel sheets in Wisconsin reading The Hunger Games and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Both of those series are being made into movies. THAT is how behind on reading I was!) I remember waiting for the bus on Seattle spring mornings reading Franny and Zooey or Moby Dick. I spent my late summer afternoons reading Valley of the Dolls and several food memoirs on a park bench. I reread The Hobbit on dark winter nights with my cats on my lap. And while I’m still impressed with how many hundreds of movies I managed to watch in 2011, I’m proud of the quantity (and quality) of books that I’ve read this year.

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The last book that I read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, was no exception to my successful year of good books. Though I am sad to say that I put it off for quite a while because I literally judged a book by it’s cover. The cover looked so granola. So Mother Earth-y. I was convinced that I wouldn’t like it much at all. It was originally passed onto me by my mother in a care package of books and I was careful to save it for last… and then some… but I was torn after hearing such rave reviews. Finally, as I flipped the pages I was drawn in by the careful balance of personal stories and hard facts.

The author, Barbara Kingsolver, wrote about her year living off of only local, organically grown food. Her husband and two children grew or raised everything they needed on their farmland or purchased from neighbors at farmers markets. Everything from how asparagus is grown to he decapitation of turkeys is explored in vivid detail and fascinated me to no end.

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It’s amazing how little we know about the food we put in our mouths. While I do not consider myself a healthy eater in any respect, I’ve noticed that my diet has recently changed. Even my favorite restaurant food is a sandwich made with locally grown ingredients. Oh how it’s changed from a greasy burger! Now, I’m not about to preach the word of locally grown food. Though I’ve always had this fantasy of owning land and possibly farm animals someday, I’m also painfully aware of my lack of a green thumb. Since their purchase in September, three of my succulents have bit the dust. Obviously, the woman who can’t manage to keep a cactus alive isn’t just going to become a farm girl overnight! But after reading this book, I’m more aware of what I’m eating and can clearly articulate several positives to eating local, organic foods. This also means that this morning I was the annoying girl at Trader Joe’s frowning at every single label. (Oh yes! Grass fed, free range beef from… New Zealand?)

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I definitely encourage you to read the book, but I also wanted to share just a few facts that I found very interesting:

+The typical American school calendar is still based on farming seasons and schedules… while 300 farms shut down weekly.

+800 million people world-wide are underfed and the current generation of children is projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

+About a quarter million people in New York shop at farmers markets. US citizens spend the smallest proportion of their income on food than any other country, ever. Food stamp allowances reach as low as a dollar per person and some low income neighborhoods only resource for food is a local gas station mini-mart.

+People who eat more omega-3 fatty acids in ocean fish show lower rates of depression and bi-polar disorder. Animals raised on pastures with a natural diet show higher levels of Omega-3 and other vitamins than animals raised in close quarters on unnatural diets.

+Bugs are genetically resisting the chemicals in pesticides and this resistance strengthens with each generation. 500+ species have built a resistance to the chemical controls but the millions of pounds of pesticides continues to increase every year.

+This final one really kills me: Being lactose tolerant is a genetic mutation in homo sapiens. Typically by age 4 humans began lactose intolerance but domestication of animals has mostly reversed this over time. Only 10% of Asian Americans are tolerant of lactose while those of northern European descent are 86% and African Americans are about 50%. So I guess I’m not the only person in America who doesn’t like cheese! Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one!

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