- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Edition edition (May 15, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399154868
- ISBN-13: 978-0399154867
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,731,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Meat: A Love Story Hardcover – May 15, 2008
From Publishers Weekly
Meat is the new black, declares Toronto-based journalist Bourette at the onset. She became a vegetarian after having once worked four days at a meatpacking plant for less than $10 an hour before disclosing herself as a reporter. Vegetarianism lasted less than six weeks before she resolved to find meat she felt good about eating. Her quest comprises the narrative's bulk and takes her from an old-fashioned Greenwich Village meat-shop butchering tutorial to the Inupiat whale blubber harvest. In Alaska, Bourette fathoms the relationship between meat and its provenance, and teases that out in subsequent chapters describing such topics as the workings of a Texas cattle ranch and moose-hunting season in Newfoundland. Throughout, she covers the broader subject of meat, including the history of American beef and its subcultures and controversies such as the impact of agribusiness and climate change on ranchers. The narrative moves swiftly and broadly at the gain of historical and cultural perspective but at the expense of well-thought-out conclusions and scene development so that the actual experience of eating meat often gets the shortest shrift. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Canadian journalist Bourette goes briefly undercover in a pork-processing facility where she learns more than she wants to about how an industrial pig slaughterhouse really does function and what it takes to get her mom’s pork roast from farm to table. To further her understanding of people’s relationship to meat eating, Bourette travels to an Inupiat settlement in Canada’s Arctic region to witness whale hunting. Her affection for the hardy people she encounters doesn’t overcome her aversion to blubber, which she finds completely indigestible. Bourette explores an environmentally aware ranch that prides itself on organic and humane cattle raising. At Newfoundland’s Tuckamore Lodge, she encounters a surprisingly socially diverse group of dedicated hunters who hunt both for sport and for sustenance. At the periphery of the carnivorous spectrum, she meets up with advocates of the “Primal Diet,” who find raw meat just the ticket. --Mark Knoblauch
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Going undercover and making the rounds through the meat industry over the course of a year, Bourette shines the light on many of the problems associated with meat-making that are well-documented in the many news headlines about Mad Cow Disease, E. Coli, and just about everything from those animal rights wacko groups. But she also grew to have a greater appreciation for how healthy meat can be in your diet when the animals are treated well, given the proper diet of grass in the case of cows, and not tampered with artificially.
In the end, she grew a deep appreciation for meat that she never thought about before and departed those lessons for all of us to enjoy. Whether you are a devout vegetarian and meat-eating maniac, you'll find something in this book that will give you an even greater appreciation for this basic of all foods.
Typical example: "But here, it's butchering as performance art. The butcher as star in the eyes of this audience." Umm, hello, that second sentence? It's not actually a sentence. A few times for effect would be okay, but this is CONTINUAL.
Now, for my main problem with this book: it's not about what it's purported to be about. Sometimes that's okay, but in this case, it just made me angrier and angrier as I was reading. For a book that's billed to be about "the rewards of being a compassionate carnivore" - what the hell do whale hunting and moose hunting for sport have to do with it?? It seems like the author just wanted to go on these adventures and write about them, which is fine, but don't then write a book that's supposed to be about "a search for the perfect meal" - unless you really think somehow that'll be revealed through whale hunting.
Plus, the author doesn't come across well here. She's "fearful" of everything, and incompetent to boot. What, after a week you can't figure out how to bone a chicken? Plus spitting out the whale blubber, a tiny piece appropriate for an infant? For god's sake, just choke it down already. And while I'd never eat raw chicken either, she can't try a bit of carpaccio? That's not even that unusual of a food. It all comes across as very disdainful of the people and cultures she's writing about.
That's the other issue - this is a book without a point. So she writes about the whale hunting, the ranch, the butcher, the moose hunting, etc. Are we supposed to feel empathy because these are all cultural icons for the people involved? Sorry, you could say the same about baby seal hunting, and that's certainly not okay. Just presenting these stories as interesting anecdotes doesn't lead us down a path towards anything, and certainly doesn't make it seem as if the author learned anything in the process.
The slaughterhouse experience makes Bourette become a vegetarian like her boyfriend, Gare. (His saintly vegetarianism is pointed out every few pages, and it was a little annoying to me.) However, Bourette can't cut it as a vegetarian, and she continues to crave cheeseburgers. So, the book details her attempt to determine how to enjoy meat without guilt and visions of the slaughterhouse. I've read other takes on this concept, but was willing to hear her out and give this book a chance. Problem is - I don't think she really accomplished this.
Besides the fact that the guilt-free-meat-eating thing has already been done by other authors, Bourette doesn't really do anything. She takes all these trips to a fancy New York City butcher, a hunting camp, Alaska for whale blubber, a conference of raw meat fanatics, a South Texas ranch, the farm for Blue Hill Restaurant, and a top-line steakhouse. Even though she lists her goals for each journey, Bourette is unsuccessful at butchering; she can't manage to shoot a deer; she spits out the sacred whale blubber in front of her hosts (offensive!); she doesn't like the beef in South Texas; and she refuses to eat any raw meat. She does, however, eat the expensive Berkshire pork at Blue Hill (although she doesn't think it is good enough to justify the focus on animal welfare), and she manages to eat three (!) steaks at the steakhouse.
If I were her, I would have felt some guilt or embarrassment about my lack of success, but perhaps Bourette's editor believed that the author-going-outside-her-comfort-zone-and-failing thing hasn't been done enough. Combining that concept with carnivore chic and you've got a sale! Guess there is still hope for any of us to get our own food adventures published...