Book Reviews

Third Thursday Potluck Cookbook
by Nancy Vienneau

Mint Tea & Minarets
by Kitty Morse

Prospero’s Kitchen
by Diana Farr Louis and June Marino

Mushroom: A Global History
by Cynthia Bertelsen

One Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fried Walleye & Cherry Pie
by Peggy Wolff

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War
by Annia Ciezadlo

unrest
by Chloe Yelena Miller

The Hungry Ear
by Kevin Young

Best Food Writing 2012
by Holly Hughes

Dinner: a Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach

My Kitchen Wars
by Betty Fussell

American Cookery
by Laura Kalpakian

Apron Anxiety
by Alyssa Shelasky

Cucina Povera
by Pamela Sheldon Johns

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen
by Laurie Colwin

The Social Life of Coffee
by Brian Cowan

The Raw and the Cooked
by Jim Harrison

Modernist Cuisine
by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet

Horsemen of the Esophagus
by Jason Fagone

Coffee Philosophy for Everyone
by Scott F. Parker and Michael W. Austin

Corked
by Kathryn Borel

Food Rules
by Michael Pollan

On Reading
by Rilke and Ruskin

America the Edible
by Adam Richman

Interview with the author of Party Girls,
Diane Goodman

Death Warmed Over
by Lisa Rogak

How to Cook a Crocodile
by Bonnie Lee Black

Great Food,
All Day Long

by Maya Angelou

Love Bites: Marital Skirmishes in the Kitchen
by Christopher Hirst

Best Food Writing 2011
edited by Holly Hughes

Balzac's Omelette
by Anka Muhlstein

The Little House Cookbook
by Barbara M. Walker

Muffins and Mayhem
by Suzanne Beecher

As Always, Julia:
The Letters of Julia Child and Avis De Voto

More...

Boozehound
by Jason Wilson

The Particular Sadness
of Lemon Cake

by Aimee Bender

The Bluberry Years
by Jim Minick

Livingston and the Tomato
by A. W. Livingston

Tomatoland
by Barry Estabrook

Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey
by Robert V. Camuto

Best Food Writing 2010 edited
by Holly Hughes

Curry
by Lizzie Collingham

Four Fish
by Paul Greenberg

The Physiology
of Taste

by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Far Flung
and Well Fed

by R. W. Apple, Jr.

The Food of a Younger Land
by Mark Kurlansky

The Dirty Life
by Kristin Kimball

Ratio
by Michael Ruhlman

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers
by Jessica Theroux

Blood, Bones & Butter
by Gabrielle Hamilton

Candyfreak
by Steve Almond

The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
by Alice B. Toklas

Medium Raw
by Anthony Bourdain

Appetite City
by William Grimes

Twain's Feast
by Andrew Beahrs

97 Orchard
by Jane Ziegelman

Born Round
by Frank Bruni

Cakewalk
by Kate Moses

Full English by
Tom Parker Bowles

Following Fish by
Samanth Subramanian

Eating Animals by
Jonathan Safran Foer

Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay

For You, Mom. Finally
by Ruth Reichl

Farm City
by Novella Carpenter

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

I ♥ Macarons
by Hisako Ogita

The Hamburger
by Josh Ozersky

Best Food Writing 2009 edited
by Holly Hughes

Gastrology
by Archestratos

Eat, Memory edited by Amanda Hesser

Eat My Globe
by Simon Majumdar

Eating
by Jason Epstein

What We Eat When We Eat Alone
by Deborah Madison

The Sweet Life
in Paris

by David Lebovitz

Modern Spice
by Monica Bhide


Reviews

REVIEW by Jason Bell

Eating Animals
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Back Bay Books, September 2010
Paperback 368 pp., ISBN: 978-0316069885

As an avowed omnivore, I consumed Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals with weary skepticism. After all, most of us food enthusiasts confront the ethics of meat before too long, often because of a annoying friend who turns down a perfectly palatable hot dog. While I never seriously considered kicking the hamburger habit, I've endured enough lectures to last me a lifetime. Forgive me if I sat down to Eating Animals braced for self-righteous vegetable pandering.

But Foer surprised me. He presents Eating Animals as a cathartic and personal project, his attempt to discover for the sake of himself and his newborn son “what meat is.” In fact, he originally “assumed that [his] book about eating animals would become a straightforward case for vegetarianism. It didn’t.” Tellingly, Foer defends his narrative not as a case, but “as a story,” because “facts are important, but they don’t, on their own, provide meaning.” And Eating Animals does read like a story: beautifully written, idealistic, a little scary at the appropriate moments—surprise, atrocities occur on factory farms—but with a suitably warm and glowing ending. Vegetarianism is, ultimately, the “right” choice for Foer and his family, even if his grandmother never truly understands his meat-less lifestyle. Yet even this conflict hides a happy ending: “to accept the factory farm—to feed the food it produces to my family, to support it with my money—would make me less myself, less my grandmother’s grandson, less my son’s father.”

Not surprisingly, Foer’s storytelling works best for his personal narrative. As soon as he ventures into his much derided “facts,” however, his book suffers. Take, for example, Foer’s view on nutrition and animal products: “Regarding US government recommendations that tend to encourage dairy consumption in the name of preventing osteoporosis, Nestle (food educator, researcher and policy maker—not the candy company) notes that in parts of the world where milk is not a staple of the diet, people often have less osteoporosis and fewer bone fractures than Americans do. The highest rates of osteoporosis are seen in countries where people consume the most dairy foods.” That’s true, but Nestle gives alternate causes for this fact that Foer ignores. Here’s Nestle: “Perhaps people elsewhere eat less junk food . . . less protein from meat and dairy foods, and less sodium from processed foods. Or perhaps their diets help them retain calcium better.” Or perhaps those countries that consume the most dairy products also possess the most “advanced” medical infrastructures, leading to a higher osteoporosis diagnosis rate. Regardless, Foer contorts and constricts the facts, then presents his viewpoint as more valid than the government’s or the food industry’s, abusing the data in the same manner as his biggest “enemies.”

So I remain an omnivore, eating duck breast, duck confit, duck head, duck feet, duck tongue, any duck or other animal part that happens onto my plate. More accurately, I remain an omnivore without regrets, even after finishing Foer’s exceedingly well-composed guilt trip.


August 3, 2010