Does this ever happen to you? You read a book that makes you want to radically change your life? It happens to me all the time. Some fantastic author presents a convincing argument for a new way to raise kids, or persuades me that sugar is the worst thing I could put into my body, or tells me how I can become a thinner, happier, or more Zen me and I’m caught up in a wave of agreement. I can’t wait to get started on my new course. I’m going to change the world. Or at least my family. Or maybe just myself. But it’s going to be a change for the better. I’m sure of it.
Then the momentum wears off and reality sinks in and I usually fall back into old habits and not much changes. Except that I feel guilty on yet another level because I’m more aware of something else I should be doing differently.
I’m reading an amazing book right now: Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. There’s no doubt she’s a fantastic writer. But did you also know she and her family chose to live a year on a farm in the Appalachian mountains eating only food they could get from neighborhood farmers or grow themselves? I already lean towards the tree-hugger side of the environmental awareness scale, so I knew I’d love this book, but now I find myself wishing we could really do this—that we could give up our dependence on food that has crossed several state lines or maybe entire oceans to get to us (and used limited fuel resources and contributed to global warming on the way), that we could eat only food that is in season (not strawberries in January and synthetic tomatoes in March and imported bananas every single day of the year), that we could know where everything on our plate actually came from. Her arguments are very convincing because she’s right. I was converted by page 5. When she started talking about how food is a spiritually loaded commodity, that everything we eat (and how it gets to us) represents an ethical decision, she had me singing “Amen sister!”
The trouble is, I’m not sure I could really change my life so drastically (and the lives of my husband and children, let’s not forget them and their love of all things packaged processed and out of season). Am I prepared to deprive my family of bananas? Or artificially-large-breasted-but-darn-juicy chicken? Or canned everything? I have a hard enough time cooking meals when I can choose from every single item in the supermarket for ingredients. What makes me think I could be the home-canning queen? I looked into locally grown food this week and guess what? It’s more expensive than the stuff in the grocery store. We’re already feeling the pinch of higher food costs lately. How can we afford to spend more?
We have a healthy garden with 6 different kinds of peppers and tomatoes and squash and some zucchini plants that are already producing like there’s no tomorrow (anybody want some free zucchini? please? anyone?). But now Barbara has me thinking we should be planting heirloom seeds and starting a poultry farm. She has me feeling great pangs of guilt because my fridge and pantry cupboards are full of fossil fuel. She has simultaneously won me over and depressed the heck out of me. I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish the book. Do I really need to keep reading to find out how it ends? I assume they all survive the winter. She couldn’t have written the book if they starved to death, right?
I’m not sure what to do. Any suggestions? While I’m waiting for answers, I’m going to go numb my conscience with a really tasty—and unethical on many levels not the least of which is cinnamon that had to be flown several thousand miles to my house—batch of snickerdoodles.