Barbara Kingsolver is Like a Dinner With Ruth

July 15, 2010

Doris Lee painting, Barbara Kingsolver book and BHG cookbooks

I’m a big fan of Barbara Kingsolver. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, and she always finds an entertaining way to inform readers of social and environmental issues. I’m currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, her nonfiction piece on homegrown food.

While Barbara motivates me to the days of food prepared outside a chemist’s lab, she also makes me think of my grandmother, Ruth. It’s not like Ruth was some health-foodie-before-her time. In fact, the recipes we’ve posted from her collection include some highly-processed ingredients.

But Barbara’s words are poetic and certain quotes put me back in my grandmother’s dining room above the store where we ate Sunday dinners. Or my mother’s kitchen, where I listened to the gathering of grandmothers as they helped prepare the meal.

Quotes like this one:

“I’m discussing dinnertime, the cornerstone of our family’s mental health…A survey of National Merit Scholars—exceptionally successful eighteen-year-olds crossing all lines of ethnicity, gender, geography and class—turned up a common thread in their lives: the habit of sitting down to a family dinner table.”

—Barbara Kingsolver,
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Or this quote, which goes well with the Doris Lee print shown above:

“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.”

—Barbara Kingsolver,
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

And lastly, a quote that’s so very true in each of our lives:

“It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.”

—Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

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4 Responses to “Barbara Kingsolver is Like a Dinner With Ruth”

  1. Terri Says:

    Funny how those dinners above the store are some of my earliest memories.

    • adunate Says:

      You can’t see it in the picture, but the cookbook (which happens to be Grandma’s) is opened to a baked ham recipe. Ham and roasted chicken are the dinners I remember having at her house.

      Do I remember correctly? Did we eat there every Sunday? In my memory, I always sat in the same spot at the table, on the side facing the fire escape door.

  2. Ann Says:

    I completely agree, and thanks for this post. I don’t think my husband and I have ever had any big theories or strategies for parenting.

    But we always sit down to dinner with each other and whatever children are around on that particular evening. It’s a lovely ritual, and I’m sure our kids have benefited by it.

    The nice payoff: they still come around for dinner all the time!

    • adunate Says:

      Isn’t that the truth! Such a simple way to keep them coming home!

      My kids have commented that sitting down to dinner was important to them and they want to do the same in their households. Interestingly, it’s through them that I’m becoming a better cook. They know food so much better than I.


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