Rife with ethical dilemmas, The Butcher and the Vegetarian follows author Tara Austen Weaver’s struggle with eating and health. Raised on a strict, vegetarian diet she’s been happy to follow into her thirties, Tara suddenly finds meat-eating the doctor’s orders. And then multiple doctors’ orders. What to do? How to start? Weaver’s meandering tale is pure foodie flip-floppery, as she eats in ways that defy a label, trying to take her waning health in hand.
What we’re eating is a charged choice these days, ethically speaking, from winter tomatoes to organic labelling issues. It’s rare to grow up veg and not have your choices challenged by friends, relatives, and even medical personnel, though you, like me, may be a nonconfrontational person who doesn’t object to others’ carnivorism and simply prefers a face-free, guiltless diet. Weaver’s embracing approach to all the major eating groups — meat-loving to raw — sets the tone for a truly unbiased memoir of one woman’s journey to find her ideal diet, food to replenish sapped energy levels and fuel her adventurous spirit.
Weaver balances the scale between improved personal health and minimized environmental impact by thoroughly researching her food’s origins. Even if it means visiting a grass-fed beef ranching operation on slaughtering day and then downing a burger afterwards, Weaver proves it’s possible to make to make food decisions — meat or veg — that one can proudly defend.
In the end, Weaver shares a personal experience and ends with a personal choice, one she admits is far from where she began and never expected to find herself. While Weaver’s eating habits may not be my own, this is a woman I’d invite to dinner for her thoughtful, open approach to both food and friendship.
The Butcher and the Vegetarian
Tara Austen Weaver
Rodale, Hardcover, February 2010
Review based on a free copy of the book courtesy of the publisher.