River Cottage Meat Book

As you may or may not have noticed, there’s a new book in the “Must Reads” sidebar. That’s because I bought Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat Book, and I am obsessed.

I’d heard rumblings of the existence of this book from a variety of sources, and decided to take a look at it. I couldn’t immediately locate it on amazon (though it’s available now), and checked the UNC student stores on a whim. When I saw it on the shelf, I knew I had to have it immediately.

First and foremost, you really have to commend anyone who titles their book “The Meat Book,” and give it shelf presentation of a beautiful hunk of beef and “Meat” in big bold letters. And it’s not even an Atkinsian diet book!

The Meat Book looks like, and essentially is, a textbook about meat. It starts with a discussion of the morality of eating meat, and comes to the very sensible conclusion of “meat’s ok” (thank goodness, otherwise what would the other 530 pages be about?). He doesn’t, however, give the reader carte blanch to go out and eat any ol’ shrink-wrapped slab of bastardized animal flesh one finds on the grocery store shelves. Instead, he goes into a lengthy discussion about the exact conditions necessary for it to be morally excusable to eat meat, and most of those conditions are swept to the wayside by the commodity meat industry.

If the treatment of animals isn’t enough sway you, though, (and it hasn’t always been for me, to be fair), Hugh tells you the true delights of eating slow-grown, heritage animals fed appropriately and treated with respect. They range from gastronomic to nutritional, and each one is reason enough, on its own, to find a better meat source.

All that aside, the book sells itself on many other points. First is a step by step illustrated guide to buying good, quality meat. Every cut of every imaginable land animal is discussed in detail, from nose to tail. The last chapters (and good 3/5ths of the book) are dedicated to specific recipes to guarantee you never have a bad meat based meal again.

And that’s Hugh’s point, in the end. Meals including meat should always be relished, a cause for celebration. And good meat, prepared well, always is.

Also worth noting is the fantastic photography that permeates this book. Not always for the light-hearted, there are beautiful photos of finished dishes, cuts of meat, and whole animals. One of the first sequences is a set of photos from the slaughter of a cow. The pictures help to remind the reader that every piece of meat came from an animal, and that animal lived a life that was controlled largely by the price you’re willing to pay for it. It’s a reminder sorely lacking from the latest Tyson offerings.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted August 1, 2007 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    “The pictures help to remind the reader that every piece of meat came from an animal, and that animal lived a life that was controlled largely by the price you’re willing to pay for it.”

    This is an excellent point. I know I’ll find a use for it in conversations. So many people forget just how persuasive the power of the pocketbook is.

  2. Posted August 1, 2007 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Laurel, this sounds like a great book! I’m sure I’ll give it a read when I come visit soon :)

  3. Posted August 2, 2007 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    I also have my eye out for a copy of this – I’ve read a lot about on some Bay Area blogs, it seems to be really popular up there. It really is amazing how much of what we eat depends on animals raised for food!

  4. theotheraverett
    Posted August 4, 2007 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Kim, thanks! It’s so hard to remember that point – and be consistent. I still scoff at prices of meat at the farmer’s market, but the fact that I can look the vendor in the eye and ask about the life of the animal outweighs that point every time.

    Maia, I don’t think I’ll be able to keep you away from it! I’ll have my CSA by then too, which will be fun. Have you decided on a date yet?

    Alice, it’s definitely worth it. Those Bay Area hippies sure know what they’re talking about ;o).

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  6. Posted January 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    I ordered this as a birthday gift for a carnivorous friend and have spent half a day curled up with it. Far more than a cookbook, The River Cottage Meat Book is an engagingly-written short course in animal husbandry and the butcher’s art, accompanied by glorious photographs of British farm life, sizzling kebabs and perfectly marbled beef. We are forced to think long and hard about the meat we eat. What breed of animal did it come from? How/where was the animal raised? What did it eat? Do we respect the sacrifice it has made? We are encouraged to do a bit of soul-searching about our own food practices.After several chapters devoted to each of the common and many of the not-so-common animals eaten by humans, the author begins his treatment of meat preparation. Each method is thoroughly explored, before we get his recipes, which run the gamut from Roast Belly of Pork with Applesauce to Spaghetti Bolognese, from Shepherd’s Pie to Terrine of Sweetbreads with a Broad Bean Puree. We also get a chapter on “The Trimmings”, for great side-dishes to serve with meat main courses.For me the only drawbacks are that U.S. cooks need to convert measurements in some instances, and that I had to wait a couple of months for the book to arrive from Amazon.This book is a must-read for meat eaters who appreciate thoughtful food writing and a straightforward, knowledgeable, unpretentious approach to a food that is a staple for many of us.

  7. Posted February 15, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I ordered this as a birthday gift for a carnivorous friend and have spent half a day curled up with it. Far more than a cookbook, The River Cottage Meat Book is an engagingly-written short course in animal husbandry and the butcher’s art, accompanied by glorious photographs of British farm life, sizzling kebabs and perfectly marbled beef. We are forced to think long and hard about the meat we eat. What breed of animal did it come from? How/where was the animal raised? What did it eat? Do we respect the sacrifice it has made? We are encouraged to do a bit of soul-searching about our own food practices.After several chapters devoted to each of the common and many of the not-so-common animals eaten by humans, the author begins his treatment of meat preparation. Each method is thoroughly explored, before we get his recipes, which run the gamut from Roast Belly of Pork with Applesauce to Spaghetti Bolognese, from Shepherd’s Pie to Terrine of Sweetbreads with a Broad Bean Puree. We also get a chapter on “The Trimmings”, for great side-dishes to serve with meat main courses.For me the only drawbacks are that U.S. cooks need to convert measurements in some instances, and that I had to wait a couple of months for the book to arrive from Amazon.This book is a must-read for meat eaters who appreciate thoughtful food writing and a straightforward, knowledgeable, unpretentious approach to a food that is a staple for many of us.


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