The River Cottage Meat Book

I was at my publisher’s office in Berkeley recently (handing out ice cream and sauce to everyone, if you want to know) and on my way out, the main editor handed me a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book.

At the time, I didn’t quite know why he pressed a copy in my hand since it’s not particularly a subject I’m always trying to learn more about. And when I felt the heft of the damn thing, I silently cursed his altruism—It weighed nearly five pounds, which translated to a full 5% of my entire luggage allowance.

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But when I opened the cover, I quickly got over the fact he didn’t hand me a baking book and understood why he chose to give me this one instead.

In the opening pages, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Meat Manifesto contains the most sensible words about how to buy and why we cook meat that I’ve ever read. The design of the book lends itself to the subject, too. Presented like a textbook, The River Cottage Meat Book tells you everything you want to know about every possible kind of meat and poultry. And not only does it tell you, but shows you as well. Eschewing the typical nicely-styled look of most cookbooks, the natural, and sometimes disturbing photos that accompany the text include everything from cows grazing in the fields, to one on its way to meet its maker. And then some.

Instead of being horrified, I was drawn into the subject like I didn’t think I could be. If you’re going to eat meat, you should take responsibility for what you’re doing and Fearnley-Whittingstall presents a rational case for finding a reputable butcher, buying close to home and using what you buy wisely and with purpose.

Although there’s plenty of recipes, the real star of this book is the accompanying text. I’m devouring it for its comprehensive, rational treatise on all aspects of meat preparation and eating. It’s written with care and concern and is the most thorough exploration of the subject I’ve read and I share the chef/author’s well-presented opinions and have been engrossed in it ever since I got it.

In fact, the more I read, the more I realize that it’s well-worth the weight.

11 comments

  • Welcome brother David. You will find the disciples of Fearlessly-Eatsitall a warm and welcoming group.

  • I got a review copy of Meat and think it’s very comprehensive. I eat vegan 90% of the time, so some of the images were disturbing. I admire Fearnley-Whittingstall’s attitude though. If you’re going to eat meat, you might as well be conscious of the origin and finished product.

  • I really enjoyed his tv series so I can imagine the book would excellent.

  • My sister just got that book as well, don’t know if she will bring it to me in France or not. I hope so because she LOVES that dang book.

  • David, he’s got a tv series here in the UK which I quite like. Haven’t seen Hugh’s meat book, but I do have another one of his cookbooks, and most recipes start with ‘butcher a cow and forage some mushrooms and wild garlic’ or something along those lines. Real, simple and local food – wonderfully refreshing in today’s world.

  • ooo I didn’t know about this book of his. Thank you David! Have you seem River Cottage Year? It’s a beauty. And I keep his River Cottage Cookbook at hand because I’m oddly drawn to the prose on animal husbandry – including slaughter houses etc.

  • Dan: As much as I’m enjoying the book, there are a few things I’m still reluctant to eat. Although his Deviled Kidneys do sound good, even though the though makes me quesy. After his description, including how he won a reluctant friend over with them (who asked for seconds!) I may be trying them soon. And I’ll post about it too.

    Riana: If your sister lugs that book overseas, that’s really love. You might want to get a copy from the UK if you live in Europe.

    Inne: Yes, it is refreshing to read his text. It’s so direct and his voice really comes through. He made a believer out of me, even though I went to the market today and came home with tuna instead of a hunk of beef.

    Jessica & FOW: I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve cooked beef at home. Still, reading all the information in the book was fascinating. Even the part about the slaughter was enlightening and a good argument. Well written too!

  • I have a lot of respect for HFW, he’s one of the last few British chefs with any concern for his own integrity. I totally agree with most of what he’s all about, and whatever anyone can say about him, he’s done a lot of good for this country

  • As Jessica already said, “If you’re going to eat meat, you might as well be conscious of the origin and finished product.”

    As a conscious eater I always prefer to eat local, be it meat or produce. Furthermore, and I realize that this may sound flippant, I prefer that animals be treated well before being killed for my eating pleasure.* I believe in the food chain and have compassion for living things. The statement “You are what you eat” is true and I try to avoid eating animals that have been pumped with antibiotics and other foreign substances.

    *Discussing this always reminds me of Monty Python’s Flying Sheep sketch: “He has realized that a sheep’s life consists of standing around for a few months and then being eaten. And that’s a depressing prospect for an ambitious sheep. He’s patently hit on the idea of escape.”

  • Devilled kidneys. Perhaps the finest dish known to man. I look forward to seeing how you get on. do you think you add some chocolate? Or maybe create a devilled kidney ice cream?

    His Fish book is due out here in the UK later this year.

  • How timely! Check out the :
    Times magazine