This month’s selection for the Foodie Book Club was Tara Austen Weaver’s The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman’s Romp through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis. The author can also be found blogging about her life over at Tea & Cookies. I’m not a regular reader, but my first experience with her blog was just before the book was published — especially interesting since a blog post was the inspiration for the book.
Considering that I am a long-time vegetarian, I figured that I would really like this book. The premise is intriguing: a life-long vegetarian is told by her doctor that she needs to eat meat for her health (an inexplicable and pervasive fatigue), the book documents her journey navigating the new-to-her world of meat-eaters. I’m not one to throw paint, I just choose not to eat meat myself, so I was interested in this big bad world of butcher shops and barbecues from a perspective with which I am familiar.
I tried really hard to like it, but I was underwhelmed. Perhaps the failure for me was in the set up. The title (and the cover) prepare you for a grand romance. The subtitle, “One Woman’s Romp through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis” is entertaining, surely, but not accurate. There is no romping. It’s a bit of a dreary hike, perhaps; pretty scenery somewhat spoiled by bad weather. There is one woman, true, but the other three topics mentioned just aren’t quite as exciting as the title makes them sound. As for “The Butcher,” several are mentioned but I don’t recall a single one ever being the butcher she had hoped for.
Not every book requires major drama, but this story could have used some. The conflict (“moral crisis”) is argued on both sides and isn’t really resolved. The only “villain” is a general malaise — hardly anything as romantic as consumption. I’m not saying those aren’t valid concerns, they just don’t make for a terrible gripping tale. Interesting, yes, but not much of a page turner. I also struggled with the chronology of the book which seemed to jump around oddly.
Something else that bothered me was the blogger name-dropping. These are actual friends of hers who also happen to be popular bloggers (and published authors), so they appear legitimately. I just found it disingenuous that they are also quoted on the back cover. She also includes a blogroll as an appendix and I haven’t decided yet if I find that annoying or not. Like a Netflix pop-up ad, I’m not sure if it’s just annoying because I already know about them.
The information in the book was generally decent, though, and I appreciated the visits to various markets and ranches. She quotes sources like Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Deborah Madison and more, includes some snippets from blogs and (sometimes strangely) blog comments, and does provide some insight into the choice to eat or not eat meat. At the end of the book she did earn a bit of credit from me for this quotation from her doctor:
“A lot of people don’t want to hear that they need to be responsible for their own health,” she tells me. “People want to be given the answer by their doctor–take this, do that–but we all need to find it out by ourselves.”
Overall not bad, but not great, and not as good as I had hoped.
Have you read this book? Check out my other book club posts for more reviews.
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