The above is actually the title of a book I read a few years back (by Ruth L. Ozeki), and one I recently recommended to a work colleague for her book club. Every time I see large cuts of beef sprawled on neat trays in butchers’ windows, decorated with plastic lettuce-lookalike, the title of this book, masquerades before me like (sticking with the theme) a prize bullfighter and I am immediately reminded that beef does not spontaneously enter my recipe boudoir.
Rather, beef arrives in my shopping trolley with much contemplation, frowning and lip pursing, and me vainly wondering what could I do beyond perfectly grilled steaks (lines from my prized, square, Le Creuset griddle pan, artfully imprinted on the meaty palms – served with discs of peppery garlic butter), hearty gourmet burgers (spiced with no less that seven secret spices – served with fat handcut oven baked chips, skin-on) or feisty chilli – with aduki beans and fresh majoram.
Did the book put me off eating meat, my colleague asked. Not really, but it did prolongue my gravitation towards the species respectful Hindus did not slaughter and feast on.
If truth be told, I made my first roast beef dinner on the weekend from a topside of organic Argentinean rump (no pictures unfortunately, so eager was I to sample a slice of what also looked like silverside, and so smug that it was a success). But I digress.
My Year of Meat is a fabulous book that will definitely make you think a bit more about juicy – or charred, but once bloody morsels. Before landing on our plates, with or without a garlicky red wine gravy, our slices of prime rib roamed verdant pastures, and perhaps in many cases, if not bred by purists for organic principles, had vast chemicals – of synthetic hormone or antibiotic origin, keeping its body fluids company… But Ozeki’s offering is so much more than a treatise on food conspiracies, or modern farming methods accompanied by unusual recipes – it joins up feminism, food consumption, cross-cultural misunderstanding, and equally, the pursuit and dissemination of Western (read American) values, with lashings of humour. It’s a great read – no additional salt required.