I came home late the other day to find a package on my front door step. When I concluded the package was from Amazon I was a bit confused as I did not remember ordering anything. I proceeded to open the box to find a thick book with a beautifully marbled piece of meat on the front. The book’s title? The River Cottage Meat Book. The note inside indicated it was a gift from the Iron Samurai…Uncle Rip.
I dropped all my stuff and plopped down on my porch to start my investigation of this exciting and informative book.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a renowned British chef, broadcaster, writer and lover of meat. He penned The River Cottage Meat Book in 2004. The book starts with his “manifesto of meat”. He feels the way meat is produced and used needs radical reform and the book is his personal views on how a positive change might be achieved.
“I’ve written this book because I believe that meat, at its splendid best, helps us achieve this sense of shared contentment perhaps better than any other food. But also written it because of my feelings about meat eating at its worst: an ignominious expression of greed, indifference and heartlessness.”
The author goes into great depth to explain his position. When you hear the word "manifesto" what comes to mind? When I think manifesto, I think of the Unabomber’s manifesto against technology; I attended Berkeley around the time Ted Kaczynski terrorized the campus. While Ted's book happens to be against technology, Hugh's manifesto celebrates meat.
The principals of meat are simple…
- Think about the meat you eat. Good quality? Bad quality?
- Think about the animals. Did they live well?
- Where do you get your meat? Butcher? Mail order? Supermarket?
- Think about how you cook your meat.
- Are you adventurous with meat?
- Are you thrifty with meat?
- Finally, if you accept there is a moral dilemma with the way we treat animals, then you must accept there is a moral dimension in your dealings with meat.
The history of carnivores tells us most meat eaters never really question the practice. Most people that shop for meat at the local supermarket never really look at the meat behind the glass as a living animal that was raised for our consuming. Most carnivores never come to understand the social responsibility of raising an animal, treating it well, slaughtering it humanly, prepping the meat for consumption and then doing it justice by taking the time to prepare it properly and enjoy it. Not just throwing it on the BBQ with a gallon of lighter fluid and burning it to a crisp, but really taking the time to cook it so it can be enjoyed.
I couldn’t agree more with the author’s principals. I have a unique understanding of meat and food after working to source products for Paleo Brands. Not all meat is created equal and we only selected quality meat for our Paleo Frozen Gourmet meals. Personally, I only buy from reputable farms raising animals in grass pastures by natural means.
I also have two different methods for cooking my meat. I use a Big Green Egg with lump wood charcoal on most occasions and have a gas grill when I am pinch and it is 9 pm and I have to eat quickly. Some how I feel dirty when I cheat the meat and cook it on the gas grill.
What I have really enjoyed about the book is his detail with cuts, types of meat and his positioning on fats. He states, “Fat gets a bad press. Because few of us actually want to be fat, and because the consumption of fat (the noun) has been identified as one of the possible cause of people becoming fat (the adjective), fat the substance has been effectively demonized.” Fat is flavor and “brokers” the flavors of meat.
Without this flavor maker, meat becomes bland and tasteless. I couldn’t agree more with his contention the worst thing to happen to meat was when someone named the fat on your waist, the same as the fat on your meat and the fat you eat.
The book concludes with recipes that are as unique and perfect as the book itself. The chef gives foolproof recipes for 150 meat classics - roast pork with perfect crackling, pot-au-feu, glazed baked ham, oxtail with rich red wine sauce, wiener schnitzel, Irish stew, roast grouse with trimmings, cassoulet, curried goat and even BBQ tips. He talks about his favorite BBQ is of homemade design…a pig trough with ventilation cut with an axe…he has truly thought of everything
This book is destined to be a classic and a must for anyone that fancies himself a meat lover.
I highly recommend this book for the carnivore in your life.