Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: Meat A Love Story by Susan Bourette

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...

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