Over the past few years, many of the reasons for eating a vegetarian diet have been falling away in the face of new research. Animal rights supporters are still steadfastly vegetarian, but those concerned with health and even the environment have begun to advocate eating small amounts of properly raised lean meat.

Three cookbooks reviewed in the New Yorker by hot guy Bill Buford reflect the three streams of thought that have led to the re-adoption of meat as our most treasured foodstuff.

There’s the back-to-the-farm crowd, influenced by Michael Pollan’s continuing investigation of livestock and sustainable farming. This movement was kicked off with the publication of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, represented here by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book, in which the British food writer chronicles his experiences raising “two pigs, two lambs and a beef steer” to put meat on his family’s table.

The next stream of pro-carnivorism comes from the “Yeah, but bacon tastes good” people, who have never used the words ethics and eating in the same sentence. They eschew fancy restaurants in favor of pig candy and the tastiest burgers they can get. Here it’s represented by Montreal chef Martin Picard, whose restaurant Au Pied de Cochon offers the ne plus ultra of high-fat, high-deliciousness nose-to-tail eating. Buford describes Picard’s attitude in his self-published book, Au Pied de Cochon: “[H]is middle-finger salute is directed not only at the world of fine dining but also at vegetarians, animal-rights defenders, anti-gun lobbyists, and anyone opposed to the killing of animals.”

And then there are the slow-food advocates, dedicated to bringing back the old, preprocessed ways of eating and enjoying food. Here they’re represented by Stéphane Reynaud, a French butcher from a line of French butchers whose book Pork & Sons is a loving meditation on the rituals of killing, preparing, and, yes, eating animals.

These aren’t the books to pop under the tree of a vegetarian; but for a dedicated carnivore they provide the map to a meaty nirvana.

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