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.