Barbara Kingsolver · 370 pages
Rating: (89.9K votes)
“April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can't keep, all passion is really a setup, and we're doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally. ... Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I'm nuts. ”
“When we traded homemaking for careers, we were implicitly promised economic independence and worldly influence. But a devil of a bargain it has turned out to be in terms of daily life. We gave up the aroma of warm bread rising, the measured pace of nurturing routines, the creative task of molding our families' tastes and zest for life; we received in exchange the minivan and the Lunchable.”
“Humans can be fairly ridiculous animals.”
“Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they are missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven.”
“Cooking is 80 percent confidence, a skill best acquired starting from when the apron strings wrap around you twice.”
“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 seed: a germ of promise to do the whole thing again, another time. . . Thanksgiving is Creation's birthday party. Praise harvest, a pause and sigh on the breath of immortality.”
“Cooking without remuneration" and "slaving over a hot stove" are activities separated mostly by a frame of mind. The distinction is crucial. Career women in many countries still routinely apply passion to their cooking, heading straight from work to the market to search out the freshest ingredients, feeding their loved ones with aplomb. [...] Full-time homemaking may not be an option for those of us delivered without trust funds into the modern era. But approaching mealtimes as a creative opportunity, rather than a chore, is an option. Required participation from spouse and kids is an element of the equation. An obsession with spotless collars, ironing, and kitchen floors you can eat off of---not so much. We've earned the right to forget about stupefying household busywork. But kitchens where food is cooked and eaten, those were really a good idea. We threw that baby out with the bathwater. It may be advisable to grab her by her slippery foot and haul her back in here before it's too late.”
“Watching Italians eat (especially men, I have to say) is a form of tourism the books don't tell you about. They close their eyes, raise their eyebrows into accent marks, and make sounds of acute appreciation. It's fairly sexy. Of course I don't know how these men behave at home, if they help with the cooking or are vain and boorish and mistreat their wives. I realized Mediterranean cultures have their issues. Fine, don't burst my bubble. I didn’t want to marry these guys, I just wanted to watch. (p. 247)”
“Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing.”
“the conspicuous consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spiritual error, or even bad manners”
“Our holiday food splurge was a small crate of tangerines, which we found ridiculously thrilling after an eight-month abstinence from citrus.... Lily hugged each one to her chest before undressing it as gently as a doll. Watching her do that as she sat cross-legged on the floor one morning in pink pajamas, with bliss lighting her cheeks, I thought: Lucky is the world, to receive this grateful child. Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing.”
“Many bright people are really in the dark about vegetable life. Biology teachers face kids in classrooms who may not even believe in the metamorphosis of bud to flower to fruit and seed, but rather, some continuum of pansies becoming petunias becoming chrysanthemums; that's the only reality they witness as landscapers come to campuses and city parks and surreptitiously yank out one flower before it fades from its prime, replacing it with another. The same disconnection from natural processes may be at the heart of our country's shift away from believing in evolution. In the past, principles of natural selection and change over time made sense to kids who'd watched it all unfold. Whether or not they knew the terms, farm families understood the processes well enough to imitate them: culling, selecting, and improving their herds and crops. For modern kids who intuitively believe in the spontaneous generation of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, trying to get their minds around the slow speciation of the plant kingdom may be a stretch.”
“The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations.”
“One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight ... Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won't put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke ... It's a relaxed atmosphere in our little town, plus our neighbors keep an eye out and will, if asked, tell us the make and model of every vehicle that ever enters the lane to our farm. So the family was a bit surprised when I started double-checking the security of doors and gates any time we all were about to leave the premises.
"Do I have to explain the obvious?" I asked impatiently. "Somebody might break in and put zucchini in our house.”
“Human manners are wildly inconsistent; plenty of people have said so. But this one takes the cake: the manner in which we're allowed to steal from future generations, while commanding them not to do that to us, and rolling our eyes at anyone who is tediously PC enough to point that out. The conspicious consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spirtual error, or even bad manners.”
“I don't know what rituals my kids will carry into adulthood, whether they'll grow up attached to homemade pizza on Friday nights, or the scent of peppers roasting over a fire, or what. I do know that flavors work their own ways under the skin, into the heart of longing. Where my kids are concerned I find myself hoping for the simplest things: that if someday they crave orchards where their kids can climb into the branches and steal apples, the world will have trees enough with arms to receive them.”
“But still, I’d be darned if I was going to be one of those Americans who stomp around Italy barking commands in ever-louder English. I was going to be one of those Americans who traversed Italy with my forehead knit in concentration, divining wordsw from their Latin roots and answering by wedging French cognates into Italian pronunciations spliced onto a standard Spanish verb conjugation.”
“Planning complex, beautiful meals and investing one's heart and time in their preparation is the opposite of self-indulgence. Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. A lot of calories get used up before anyone sits down to consume. But more importantly, a lot of talk happens first, news exchanged, secrets revealed across generations, paths cleared with a touch on the arm. I have given and received some of my life's most important hugs with those big oven-mitt potholders on both hands.”
“This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market.”
“Many of us who aren't farmers or gardeners still have some element of farm nostalgia in our family past, real or imagined: a secret longing for some connection to a life where a rooster crows in the yard.”
“Over the last decade our country has lost an average of 300 farms a week. Large or small, each of those was the lifes work of a real person or family, people who built their lives around a promise and watched it break.”
“Most of us are creatures so comforted by habit, it can take something on the order of religion to invoke new, more conscious behaviors--however glad we may be afterward that we went to the trouble.”
“If it crosses your mind that water running through hundreds of miles of open ditch in a desert will evaporate and end up full of concentrated salts and muck, then let me just tell you, that kind of negative thinking will never get you elected to public office in the state of Arizona. When this giant new tap turned on, developers drew up plans to roll pink stucco subdivisions across the desert in all directions. The rest of us were supposed to rejoice as the new flow rushed into our pipes, even as the city warned us this water was kind of special. They said it was okay to drink but don't put it in an aquarium because it would kill the fish.
Drink it we did, then, filled our coffee makers too, and mixed our children's juice concentrate with fluid that would gag a guppy. Oh, America the Beautiful, where are our standards? ”
“If you're picturing Farmer Juan and his family gratefully wiping sweat from their brows when you buy that Ecuadorian banana, picture this instead: the CEO of Dole Inc. in his air-conditioned office in Westlake Village, California. He's worth $1.4 billion; Juan gets about $6 a day. Much money is made in the global reshuffling of food, but the main beneficiaries are processors, brokers, shippers, supermakets, and oil companies.”
“Doesn't the Federal Farm bill help out all these poor farmers?
No. It used to, but ever since its inception just after the Depression, the Federal Farm Bill has slowly been altered by agribusiness lobbyists. It is now largely corporate welfare ... It is this, rather than any improved efficiency or productiveness, that has allowed corporations to take over farming in the United States, leaving fewer than a third of our farms still run by families.
But those family-owned farms are the ones more likely to use sustainable techniques, protect the surrounding environment, maintain green spaces, use crop rotations and management for pest and weed controls, and apply fewer chemicals. In other words, they're doing exactly what 80 percent of U.S. consumers say we would prefer to support, while our tax dollars do the opposite.”
“(on asparagus) Europeans of the Renaissance swore by it as an aphrodisiac, and the church banned it from nunneries.”
“The longer I think about a food industry organized around an animal that cannot reproduce itself without technical assistance, the more I mistrust it. Poultry, a significant part of the modern diet, is emblematic of the whole dirty deal. Having no self-sustaining bloodlines to back up the industry is like having no gold standard to underpin paper currency. Maintaining a natural breeding poultry flock is a rebellion, at the most basic level, against the wholly artificial nature of how foods are produced. ”
“And here is the shocking plot twist: as farmers produced those extra calories, the food industry figured out how to get them into the bodies of people who didn't really want to eat 700 more calories a day.”
“It's interesting that penny-pinching is an accepted defense for toxic food habits, when frugality so rarely rules other consumer domains. The majority of Americans buy bottled drinking water, for example, even though water runs from the faucets at home for a fraction of the cost, and government quality standards are stricter for tap water than for bottled. At any income level, we can be relied upon for categorically unnecessary purchases: portable-earplug music instead of the radio; extra-fast Internet for leisure use; heavy vehicles to transport light loads; name-brand clothing instead of plainer gear. "Economizing," as applied to clothing, generally means looking for discount name brands instead of wearing last year's clothes again. The dread of rearing unfashionable children is understandable. But as a priority, "makes me look cool" has passed up "keeps arteries functional" and left the kids huffing and puffing (fashionably) in the dust.”
“Once you start cooking, one thing leads to another. A new recipe is as exciting as a blind date. A new ingredient, heaven help me, is an intoxicating affair.”
A glowing dawn, a sweet, ripe peach,
A blue sea lapping on the beach.
A hint of spring, a dewy rose
Whose scent assails an eager nose.
Beauty now at every sight.
A feast for senses to delight.
A darkened cell, the fear of night,
A mistral blows with all its might.
A winter's chill in barren land,
The bitter cold through frozen hand.
Beauty now has closed its door.
And swept away for distant shore.
A touch of cheek, a lingered kiss
So soft remembered, soon to miss.
A tender arm around me thrown,
The beauty of a heart's true home.
In black despair, a shooting star,
For Paradise is where you are.”
“The practice which obtains amongst the Americans of fixing the standard of their judgment in themselves alone, leads them to other habits of mind. As they perceive that they succeed in resolving without assistance all the little difficulties which their practical life presents, they readily conclude that everything in the world may be explained, and that nothing in it transcends the limits of the understanding. Thus they fall to denying what they cannot comprehend; which leaves them but little faith for whatever is extraordinary, and an almost insurmountable distaste for whatever is supernatural.”
“Formal education teaches how to stand, but to see the rainbow you must come out and walk many steps on your own.”
“You want to know what I remember," he said quietly, his fingers fiddling with his cuffs as he rolled the sleeves up to his elbow, his eyes locked on the view before them.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and dipped his head just slightly, glancing at the floor before lifting it and staring out at the night sky.
"I remember everything.”
“There's only one cure for weirdness.”
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