Book Review – The Butcher and The Vegetarian

by Robyn on January 24, 2011

Book - The butcher and The VegetarianThe Butcher and The Vegetarian, One Woman’s Romp through a World of Men, Meat and Moral Crisis by Tara Austen Weaver.
Published by Rodale Inc. 228 pages.

Publisher’s Summary: Growing up in a vegetarian family Tara Austen Weaver never thought she’d stray. But as an adult, she found herself in poor health and, after trying cures of every kind, a doctor finally ordered her to eat meat. Warily, she ventured into the butcher shop, and as the man behind the counter wrapped up her first–ever chicken, she found herself intrigued. Eventually, he dared her to cook her way through his meat counter.

As Tara navigates through this confusing new world—grappling with her revulsion to raw meat and trying to find chickens that are truly free–range—she’s tempted to give up and go back to eating tempeh. The more she learns about meat and how it’s produced, and the effects eating it has on the human body and the planet, the less she feels she knows.

She embarks upon a sometimes hilarious sometimes frightening whirlwind tour that takes her from slaughterhouse to chef’s table, from urban farm to the hearthside of cow wranglers. Along the way, she meets an unforgettable cast of characters who all seem to take a vested interest in whether she opts for turnips or T–bones.

The Butcher and the Vegetarian is the rollicking and relevant story of one woman’s quest to reconcile a nontraditional upbringing with carnivorous desires.

I was definitely intrigued when I read the title of this book. Knowing of Tara through her blog, Tea and Cookies, I looked forward to reading her book. It’s exciting to see bloggers, whom you respect, get book deals and find themselves published after blogging and sharing their life through blog posts. Tara doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

The book isn’t a re-hashing of page by page anecdotes from her blog. We know she’s been raised vegetarian. Suffering from ill health places her on a road to find “health” not diet. Tara shares her struggle to stay healthy without becoming a fanatic. She stresses the importance of knowing what one is eating and why they eat what they do. She shares her feelings about crossing over to the “dark side” when trying meat the first time. She explains her guilt and the notion of abandoning her mother’s teachings, not a simple task, considering the respect she for her.

She actually takes the reader on an exhaustive journey of “what to eat” for her. I love her enthusiasm for embracing new food territories. I stood brave with her at the butcher. Being raised vegetarian, she is not even sure what to ask for; the task of speaking to a butcher for one familiar with meat and cuts is one thing, but to go in, ask for things so utterly alien to her was like stepping of the bus in Paris, France with a cursory high school french class under your belt. An adventure had begun.

I enjoyed reading about her journey and was quite surprised with her choice at the end. I applaud her exploring all the new cuisines and foods. I don’t really like referring to Tara’s journey as a ‘diet’ journey. It has all the wrong implications. Tara was seeking health, vitality and to basically feel good. Her exploration of all things food was a delight to read. She doesn’t preach a lifestyle, she only begs and nudges a reader to go about their own journeys to find what works for them. Intellectually, and physically. She shares with candor her choices on what she will and won’t eat. I laughed at her antics, and cried with her as well.

I recommend everyone purchase, borrow or loan a copy to a friend. It’s a great way to get a conversation going about health, food and it’s implications on us and the world around us. You never know, maybe you’ll bump into Tara someday and want to sit down for a chat and some Tea and Cookies.

I received this book as an advance copy for review.

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