From Chapter 17 – Celebration Days in
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Snow fell on our garden in December, leaving the dried corn stalks and withered tomato vines standing black on white like a pen-and-ink drawing titled Rest. I postponed looking at seed catalogs for awhile. Those of us who give body and soul to projects that never seem to end–child rearing, housecleaning, gardening–know the value of the occasional closed door. We need our moments of declared truce.

The farmers’ market closed for the year. We paid our last call to the vendors there, taking phone numbers and promising to keep in touch for all kinds of reasons: we would miss our regular chats; we would need advice about the Icelandic sheep we were getting in the spring; we might drive out sometimes to get winter greens from their cold frames. We stocked up on enough frozen meat to see us through winter, including a hefty leg of lamb for one of our holiday dinners.

The tunnel of winter had settled over our lives, ushered in by that great official Hoodwink, the end of daylight saving time. Personally I would vote for one more hour of light on winter evenings instead of the sudden extra-early blackout. Whose idea was it to jilt us in this way, leaving us in cold November with our unsaved remnants of daylight petering out before the workday ends? In my childhood, as early as that, I remember observing the same despair every autumn: the feeling that sunshine, summertime, and probably life itself had passed me by before I’d even finished a halfway decent tree fort. But mine is not to question those who command the springing forward and the falling back. I only vow each winter to try harder to live like a potato, with its tacit understanding that time is time, no matter what any clock might say. I get through the hibernation months by hovering as close as possible to the woodstove without actual self-immolation, and catching up on my reading, cheered at regular intervals by the excess of holidays that collect in a festive logjam at the outflow end of our calendar.

We are a household of mixed spiritual backgrounds, and some of the major holidays are not ours, including any that commands its faithful to buy stuff nobody needs. But we celebrate plenty. We give away our salsas and chutneys as gifts, and make special meals for family and friends: turkey and stuffing. Leg of lamb with mint jelly and roasted root vegetables tossed with rosemary and olive oil. For New Year’s Day, the traditional southern black-eyed peas and rice, for good luck. Always in the background, not waiting for a special occasion, is the businesslike whir of the bread-machine paddles followed by the aroma of Steven’s bread-of-the-day filling the whole house. We have our ways of making these indoor months a more agreeable internment.

This book was good, and a hard one for me to pick up. I love food, and increasingly I love books that challenge the way I approach food, and this book definitely did that. My life is better now for it.

To be completely honest, I should acknowledge that I don’t totally agree with Kingsolver’s approach to food (who agrees with anyone totally about anything, though, right?), and even if I did, I’m too much of a born-and-raised suburbanite to really forgo a whole world of long-distance produce (clementines at Christmastime?). All that said, this is a phenomenal read, with as much to say about how to live well and value life as it does about food and the eating of it.

All that and it’s fun, to boot. I love the way she treats Thanksgiving:

Wake up now, look alive, for here is a day off work just to praise Creation: the turkey, the squash, and the corn, these things that ate and drank sunshine, grass, mud, and rain, and then in the shortening days laid down their lives for our welfare and onward resolve. There’s the miracle for you, the absolute sacrifice that still holds back seeds: a germ of promise to do the whole thing again, another time.

Isn’t that just fantastic?

Anyway, I’ve been veering off course with my last bunch of entries, focusing more on what I think a lectionary should be than what I actually feel like reading this time of year (although those dictionary entries were spot on. damn, i love that stuff).

So here’s to keeping the faith with the rest of the series. Next up: Oxford Guide to Food on delicious goodies.

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