Monday, June 27, 2005

MEAT - The man's book for the summer

You know you are going to like a book when a review describes is as,

MEAT: big, fat slabs of the stuff ...
or when a reviewer says,

fantastic recipes for all the parts, from sirloins to ribs, livers, hearts, tongues and pancreas. have to take a look.

For those manly-men out there who, like your humble correspondant like to work the Weber, I give you my first cookbook recommendation
The River Cottage Meat Book.


This arm-straining volume (weighing in at an impressive and well illustrated 543 pages) is quite the most ambitious volume yet by an author who absolutely refuses to be categorised. Is he a cookery writer? An expert on the sociology and history of food? An eccentric TV personality? Actually, of course, he's all three (and more); and all of his various skills find expression in this, his magnum opus.

The first intriguing question that The River Cottage Meat Book inspires is: what is the author's agenda? The book has so many aims it's difficult to know where to begin. First of all, this is a definitive guide to the preparation and cooking of meat, in all its various forms. Fearnley-Whittingstall deals (in assiduous detail) with such topics as roasting, grilling and preserving everything from turkey to trotters, in a variety of recipes that he obviously knows and loves. But there is far more to the book than this--fascinating sections on the many different types of meat (lamb, pork and so on) are crammed with information on the different cuts of meat and what they should be used for.

But as someone who raises and utilises his own livestock at the River Cottage, Fearnley-Whittingstall is clearly passionate about the welfare of animals bred for food, and provides some unpalatable information on widespread misdemeanours in these areas. If nothing else, this book will persuade you that it's a good idea to buy your meat from butchers who are equally passionate about these issues, or even direct from reputable farms. The concept makes sound ideological sense, but also ensures that your meat dishes will have an unrivalled depth of flavour.
One word of caution here. It is English. It involves meat. It has funny measurements. But with a cover like this how can you go wrong?

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