From Publishers Weekly
Fussell (My Kitchen Wars
; The Story of Corn
) follows beefsteaks from cattle pens in 17th-century Manhattan to Brooklyn's Peter Luger Steak House today. On her visits to an independent Vermont butcher, ranching couples in Colorado and Oregon and feedlot owners in Kansas, Fussell critiques the polemical meat writing of Michael Pollan and the mythology of a rare, bloodied he-man food by giving an evenhanded look at the many sides of beef. One visit with Temple Grandin explores the work of the outsider cattle researcher who wants to foster a cow's-eye view of animal husbandry; similarly, Fussell's research into the lives of the men—and, particularly, the women—who raise and research cattle presents a human-eye view of an industry riddled with impersonal jargon and machismo. Fussell also participates in grading and weighing cuts of beef, attending an industry conference and even dressing in a pair of heels to play a part as a rodeo cowgirl. The breadth of her observations is impressive—from congressional decisions to simplified anecdotes from the voyage of Lewis and Clark and quotes from Woody Allen—but such details might become tedious for casual readers. Illus., with recipes. (Oct.)
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American steaks pretty well establish the world standard for flavor, tenderness, and especially size. And the blandishments of the nutrition police have little impact on the nation’s crowded steakhouses. Fussell, an unabashed carnivore, sets out across America to assess the current state of the nation’s beef industry. She surveys Texas’ open ranges, talking to ranchers and cowboys, ending up at the vast King Ranch with its untold thousands of steers. There she participates in the branding ritual. In Montana she investigates contemporary buffalo herds challenging beef’s red-meat hegemony. Working in a slaughterhouse provides Fussell intimacy with the fearsome process of dispatching and deconstructing beasts into the sanitized pieces American consumers find in supermarket cases. Recipes for steaks and accompaniments illustrate the many ethnic traditions that come together in American cooking. Less harsh and judgmental than many critics, Fussell worries most about the dangers of the beef industry’s sheer immensity. --Mark Knoblauch