British food activist and cultish TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (a.k.a. “Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall”) gets dished on in the New York Times Magazine, as reviewer Alekxandra Crapanzano fearfully cracks open his 543-page manifesto, The River Cottage Meat Book, writing, “I had been warned that [it] … contained photographs that would possibly turn me into a vegetarian.” Thankfully, the worst doesn’t happen, and our reviewer is won over by recipes for rice pudding pork and stuffed loin of lamb.
Chef, cookbook author, and prolific blogger David Lebovitz also hesitates over the book’s “natural, and sometimes disturbing photos,” but he is converted by the author’s pragmatic philosophy: “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.”
This, both Crapanzano and Lebovitz find, is the real meat of the book. Crapanzano discovers that the British take on sustainable-meat production differs from the American version ideologically. “In America, it is the health of the consumer—read: eater—that has inspired the huge interest in (and business of) ‘natural’ and organic meat production. Shoppers will reach into their wallets for their own benefit. … In Britain, sustainable animal husbandry has taken on a moral imperative, and the well-heeled British consumers spend either out of noble compassion or to relieve their carnivore’s guilt.”
Perhaps a little noble compassion is drifting over the pond to America? Baa? Moo? Or neigh?
(Check out Fearnley-Whittingstall’s columns for the UK’s Guardian for a taste of his recipes, and his unorthodox writing style.)