LEXINGTON, Ky.—Although it’s only the second day of fall term, all first-year and transfer students received their first assignment weeks ago—to read Barbara Kingsolver’s highly acclaimed book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year in Food Life.
This year’s First Engagements: A Community Book Project selection tells the story of how for a full year Kingsolver and her family deliberately ate locally-produced food. Kingsolver wrote the central narrative, and her husband, Steven Hopp, wrote in-depth sidebars about various aspects of food-production science and industry. Kingsolver's 19-year-old daughter, Camille, wrote brief essays on the local-food project, plus nutritional information, meal plans and recipes.
First Engagements is designed to provide new students with a common introduction to academic life at Transylvania and to create discussion on a topic of lasting significance.
All incoming students received a copy of the book this summer and will participate in one of 40 small discussion groups led by faculty and upper class students from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 9, or Thursday, September 10 in locations across campus.
During the discussion, students will be treated to “Transylvania Garden Cookies,” a recipe inspired by Kingsolver’s “Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies” from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and modified by professors Mike Pepper and Kathleen Jagger. The cookies were made and baked by faculty members in the University’s Food Lab and include the following local ingredients: eggs from art professor’s Zoe Strecker’s Peace Roots Farm, Harrodsburg; honey from Hosey’s Kentucky Honey, Midway; whole wheat blend flour from Wiesenberger Mills, Midway; Heini’s Amish roll butter from Heini’s Cheese Chalet, distributed by Bunker Hill Cheese Co. in Millersburg, Ohio; and chocolate from Chocolate by Jamieson Ltd., a small, family owned business in Mount Sterling. (The coca beans are from Ghana.)
Butternut squash from Transylvania’s Community Garden was substituted for the zucchini in the original recipe.
Kingsolver's 12 books of fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction include the novels "The Bean Trees" and "The Poisonwood Bible." Translated into 19 languages, her work has won a devoted worldwide readership and many awards, including the National Humanities Medal.