In recent years, I’ve read a number of books on animal agriculture and Righteous Porkchop by Nicolette Hahn Niman is only the latest. I was intrigued by the title, but I feared that it might be a repeat of earlier information, and I would become bored or would be made to feel really guilty. However, this was not the case.
Category Archives: Book Review
I’m always intrigued to learn more about public personalities…you know there is always more to the inner person than what you see on the screen or through their writing. Julia Child is no different. There is more to learn about Julia Child beyond watching the Julie and Julia movie or her shows on PBS. To know Child as a person, I recommend you read As Always, Julia: The Letters of Juila Child and Avis DeVoto (her friend and unofficial literary agent) edited by food historian Joan Reardon.
This charming book is a series of more than 200 letters between Child and DeVoto that began in March 1952 with a fan letter from Julia to Avis’s husband, Bernard DeVoto. Child read his article in Harper’s magazine and agreed with his frustration on the sharpness of American stainless steel knives. She sends him a gift of a French knife. Avis responds because Bernard is busy preparing for a long trip. The exchange of letters begins, and within a few short months the salutations switch from Mrs. Child and Mrs. DeVoto to Dear Julia and My Dear Avis.
Before the holidays I finished an interesting book by frequent New York Times Magazine contributor, Paul Greenberg, entitled Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. Greenberg is a lifelong fisherman and he clearly struggles with the contradiction of saving fish and their environment, but writing with passion about the thrill of hunting them.
My husband pointed out that I haven’t written a book review in a while. He’s right. Even though I’ve read plenty of food-related books over the past few weeks, I have not posted any entries on them. Let me try and rectify that…Please note that not all reviews have to be recommendations.
The book begins with Toronto-based journalist Susan Bourette working undercover in a slaughterhouse. Not surprisingly, Bourette finds this to be an unpleasant experience. The purpose of sharing her experience is not really to incite policy change, like Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, but more to explain why she’s written a book about meat.
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…
In his new book, 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust, William Alexander describes the year he spent baking a loaf of bread each week in an attempt to replicate a loaf of peasant bread he once tasted. In living out this obsession, he grows and grinds his own wheat, wins second place in a New York State Fair bread contest, and travels to a 1,300-year-old monastery in Normandy to help them restore their practice of bread baking.
I just finished a charming book – A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. I was introduced to Wizenberg’s writing through Bon Appétit where she is a regular contributor, but she is also the author of the blog, Orangette.
I grew up eating fruits and vegetables from our family gardens or from a local farmer’s market. Frankly, it spoiled me. My palate knows what a vegetable should taste like and knows how good freshly picked fruit can be. Because of that lucky experience, I’ve never really been satisfied with produce from the grocery store. Russ Parson’s How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor From Farm to Table helps me understand why.
Parsons, food editor for the LA Times, explains the reasoning behind buying produce locally and in-season. He details the conflict between growing produce for sturdiness in shipping instead of flavor, and it is clear what we are missing in the grocery stores. Within commercial agriculture the author writes, “there are significant rewards for growing more fruit, but there are precious few for growing better fruit.” Farmers who have the talent to grow flavorful produce and put in the effort to keep them that way, are almost forced to go outside the normal supply chain, usually farmers’ markets to sell directly to the consumer.
Parsons helps arm his readers with some basic information about how to choose produce, how to store them once they are home, and then shares suggestions on basic preparation. I appreciated understanding the science behind how certain growing, storing, and cooking methods contribute to the flavor and texture of my food.