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The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance [Kindle Edition]

Tovar Cerulli
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A vegan turned hunter reignites the connection between humans and our food sources and continues the dialogue begun by Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver.

As a boy, Tovar Cerulli spent his summers fishing for trout and hunting bullfrogs. While still in high school, he began to experiment with vegetarianism. By the age of twenty he was a vegan. A decade later, in the face of declining health, he returned to omnivory and within a few years found himself headed into the woods, rifle in hand.

In this deeply personal narrative, Cerulli explores our nutritional connections with the larger-than-human world. From a fateful encounter with a brook trout to a rekindled relationship with the only hunter in his family, he traces the evolution of his dietary philosophy. Contemplating vegetable gardens, farm fields, and deer woods with intellectual and emotional candor, he stalks both food and meaning.

Cerulli's tale brings nuance to conversations often dominated by black-and-white thinking. He sets contemporary debates in context by looking back over centuries of history, delving into our changing natural and cultural landscapes, and examining the shifting meanings of vegetarianism and hunting. In place of moral certainties, he offers questions.

Can hunters and vegetarians be motivated by similar values and instincts? In this time of intensifying concern over ecological degradation and animal welfare, how do we make peace with the fact that, even in growing organic vegetables, life is sustained by death?

At once compassionate and probing, The Mindful Carnivore invites us to reconsider what it means to eat.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"A touching and thought-provoking exploration of not only what we eat but how we eat it."


“Destined to become a classic.” —Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms

“Both a personal tale of how one man comes to terms with the meat on his plate and a historical look at humanity’s connection to animals, The Mindful Carnivore delivers new insight into the too-often simplistic vegetarian-versus-carnivore argument.” —Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer
“Bull’s-eye! Cerulli cuts through forests of argument with a thoughtful and thrilling narrative. We experience his growing awareness of what it means to be fully involved in the web of nature. With him we can wonder at its complex mystery and share in ‘mindful eating’ as a sacred act.” —Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn and Raising Steaks 

Product Details

  • File Size: 694 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (February 14, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006LTILY6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,997 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought February 14, 2012
This is a very readable book about the complex web of interdependence between humans and our food, whether it be animal or vegetable. Not highly editorialized, it is nevertheless a call to examine more deeply our relationship to food. Cerulli is not defending the meat industry -- throughout the book he is in agreement with the general consensus that the meat industry is highly problematic. But he points out eloquently that things are a bit more complicated than "meat bad, veggies good," and not just because of the nutritional pitfalls of plant-based diets. To simply avoid meat and reach for tofu at the grocery store is still to be out of touch with our food and everything that went into bringing it to us -- including, yes, the death of animals. Cerulli's search for a better way to stock his fridge is useful and informative, in much the same way as the documentary "No-Impact Man."

I found the book clear, insightful, and very beautifully written. The point about the complexity of the web of interdependence is well-illustrated and reenforced throughout but not heavy-handed. There's a lot of interesting information on the history of hunting and wildlife management, as well as the wide spectrum of philosophical stances and approaches found among hunters. There's definitely an element of suspense as well, whether you happen to be rooting for man or deer.

For the record, I have known the author for many years. I am not a hunter. I have been a vegetarian, and am a vegetarian sympathizer.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different look at hunting and food February 21, 2012
Tovar's story is relatively unique in itself. To simply read about his journey of transformation to veganism and back, would have made this a good book. But the deeper look into his own relationship with food and his impacts on the natural world around him provides us with an opportunity to look a little deeper into ourselves. Best of all, he accomplishes this without preaching or self-righteous dogma.

"This is how I see it," is basically what he says. It's never, "this is how YOU should see it."

He just presents the opportunity, and the reader can hardly help but take it.

It's not a completely comfortable book, especially for the long-time hunter. Tovar tips some sacred cows in his quest to find answers, and he asks some pretty tough questions. For example, he challenges the often contorted logic that hunters need good PR, so we should be ethical and safe. Shouldn't we be ethical and safe anyway? Good PR will logically follow.

In his very thoughtful approach to the decision to kill a deer, and in the efforts that culminate in his first success, Tovar sheds a little light on the thought process that many of us long-time hunters have come to take for granted. To me, at least, it was an opportunity to look back at my own choices and decisions and take stock of where my personal ethics come into play. I think there's a lot of value in a book that makes you stop to think without telling you what you should be thinking. And this is what makes The Mindful Carnivore a great book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some big ideas to chew on... February 20, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've just finished Tovar Cerulli's newly released The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, and I highly recommend it to just about anyone who eats and reads. No matter how you'd label yourself--hunter, nonhunter, antihunter, vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, or just an omnivore with dilemmas--this is a book worth reading. And once you've finished it, you may begin questioning those labels that once seemed so simple and clear. But apart from all the big ideas in this book, it's just a good read.

As Cerulli tells a deeply personal story of his own journey from vegan to hunter, he connects his experiences to larger themes having to do with meat, meaning, and the karmic costs of every food on his table--including the brown rice, tofu, and organic vegetables. As you'll immediately guess from the book's title and cover, Cerulli is now something of a venison evangelist. But he wasn't always. After reflecting on the compassionate words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, he became a vegetarian at age 20. Soon, after learning more about the modern egg and dairy industries, he went completely vegan. Eventually, however, he began to have second thoughts.

"I realized," he writes in his bio for a recent panel discussion, "that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless. Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn't what we ate but how that food came to our plates. A few years later, my wife--who was studying holistic health and nutrition--suggested that we shift our diet, and my health improved when we started eating dairy and eggs.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By jpltpl
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. I love reading about food and where food comes from, so this book was right up my alley. Cerulli is a careful, thoughtful writer (and eater!) and clearly cares about doing the right thing where animals and humanity is concerned. Well done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very very well-constructed book March 13, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I've been quite fascinated by the questions about where our food comes from over the last couple of years and documentaries such as Food Inc and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals have only added to my interest. Although I have weighed up my carnivore lifestyle numerous times over the last decade, I still keep returning to the meat counter or section. So, what would Cerulli's The Mindful Carnivore teach me about my attitudes?

I really don't know what I expected about the book but it raised some real questions that I had never expected to address. Cerulli spends a lot of time considering hunting: hunting for food, hunting for sport. I have never hunted - I have no desire to hunt - but I'm aware of the hypocrisy I would present if I looked down on anyone who hunted for food. Surely it shows more respect for the produce you eat than a schlep to the meat counter does?

Cerulli interweaves this tale of his personal history with food and, specifically, meat with factual information, personal anecdotes, quotations from various sources both pro and anti-hunting and both for and against vegetarianism.

All in all, this is a very very well-constructed book but neither aims to preach nor to condemn but simply to detail one man's quest for answers about this particular and what he has discovered on the journey. At times touching, at other times disturbing, this is an incredibly emotive book, yet still manages to keep a tight hold of the facts.

**I received a copy of this title in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All views are my own.**
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars which is a great book as well
As a hunter for many years, this book was very interesting and enlightening.
I read it after reading Aldo Leopold's Land County Almanac, which is a great book as well. Read more
Published 26 days ago by D. Lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
A good read. I enjoyed the perspective!
Published 2 months ago by Seaner
Tovar Cerulli is a deep and diverse man - and he has tackled a highly volatile subject in his outstanding book THE MINDFUL CARNIVORE. Read more
Published 3 months ago by GEORGE H BRISTOL
5.0 out of 5 stars To the author: thank you for sharing your experience ...
To the author: thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that plenty of people read this book and take the mindful part to heart. This book was very enjoyable.
Published 6 months ago by jane harlow
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but not a fast read
(Full review here: [...]) I recommend this book to anyone who has considered giving up meat, or who is considering returning to eating it. Read more
Published 12 months ago by JS
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading
I think that everyone should read this book. As a female hunter is Alaska, I have had many of the same struggles: I have no tradition to give thanks, and I lament the loss of life... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Courtney E Bacom
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book I ever read
...and I read a lot--I have purchased 4 more of these already to give away! beautiful prose, a solid argument, and impossible to put down.
Published 17 months ago by Dr. Carol B. Low
3.0 out of 5 stars I can see why the NYTimes called this "touchy-feely"
Tovar Cerulli seems like a very thoughtful, articulate person and he's certainly a good writer. However, I had a bit of hard time getting through some sections. Read more
Published 19 months ago by proletariat
5.0 out of 5 stars Still mostly vegan, but LOVED this book!
I am an open minded, female, Michael Pollan-reading near-vegan and will remain mostly vegan after reading this book. But I am so glad I read this book! Read more
Published 21 months ago by F. Young
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindful, thought-provoking, and beautifully written
What a beautiful and honest book! I loved reading the author's frank and heart-felt discussion of his journey toward veganism, and then his journey away from it toward meat-eating... Read more
Published on May 19, 2013 by Liz Roseman
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More About the Author

Tovar Cerulli has worked as a logger, carpenter, and freelance writer. His essays and articles have appeared in various publications, including Outdoor America and Northern Woodlands. In 2009, Cerulli was awarded a graduate school fellowship by the University of Massachusetts, where his research has focused on food, hunting, and human relationships with the natural world.

He lives in Vermont with his wife Catherine, their Labrador retriever, and an eclectic mix of cookbooks.

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