The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis

The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis

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by Tara AustenWeaver

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Growing up in a family that kept jars of bean sprouts on its windowsill before such things were desirable or hip, Tara Austen Weaver never thought she'd stray from vegetarianism. But as an adult, she found herself in poor health, and, having tried cures of every kind, a doctor finally ordered her to eat meat. Warily, she ventured into the butcher shop, and as the

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Growing up in a family that kept jars of bean sprouts on its windowsill before such things were desirable or hip, Tara Austen Weaver never thought she'd stray from vegetarianism. But as an adult, she found herself in poor health, and, having tried cures of every kind, a doctor finally ordered her to eat meat. Warily, she ventured into the butcher shop, and as the man behind the counter wrapped up her first-ever chicken, she found herself charmed. Eventually, he dared her to cook her way through his meat counter. As Tara navigates through this new world--grass-fed beef vs. grain-fed beef; finding chickens that are truly free-range--she's tempted to give up and go back to eating tempeh. The more she learns about meat and how it's produced, and the effects eating it has on the human body and the planet, the less she feels she knows. She embarks upon a sometimes hilarious, sometimes frightening whirlwind tour that takes her from slaughterhouse to chef's table, from urban farm to the hearthside of cow wranglers. Along the way, she meets an unforgettable cast of characters who all seem to take a vested interest in whether she opts for turnips or T-bones. The Butcher and the Vegetarian is the rollicking and relevant story of one woman's quest to reconcile a nontraditional upbringing with carnal desires.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Raised a vegetarian, writer and editor Weaver was always diet-conscious, so it was a bit of a surprise when, in her 30s, her physician recommend meat-eating for her suffering health; Weaver's consequent foray into the world of meat is a toothsome take on the learning-to-eat-better memoir. Weaver jumps into the flesh flood with both feet, sampling all things savory, up to and including roasted bone marrow, in a game effort to understand the appeal. She finds some dishes, like flank steak with chimichurri sauce and Syrian kebabs, life-changing, but turns a critical eye on herself and her endeavor that proves honest and endearing, whether voicing her disappointment in the classic steak house, mulling the ethics of eating dead animals, considering the joys of grilling, chronicling the evolution of USDA dietary recommendations, or detailing the butchering process. Her narrative maintains a funny, personable tone throughout, more like a knowledgeable friend than a professional reporter. Though eventually settling on a raw food diet, Weaver avoids prescriptive finger-shaking, encouraging readers to find the diet that's right for them by incorporating a wide range of perspectives.
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Library Journal
Weaver, freelance writer and author of the food blog Tea & Cookies (, chronicles her efforts to reconcile her strict vegetarian upbringing with a medically motivated decision to eat meat. While exploring the differences between vegetarians and carnivores, Weaver cooks steaks, hosts dinner parties, tours ranches, and interviews farmers and meat enthusiasts. She considers literally cooking her way through a butcher's meat counter but never does. Instead, she embarks on a series of diet-altering "food challenges" that end with her becoming a raw-foodist. VERDICT Compared with the immersive, yearlong projects featured in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, Weaver's experiments seem ephemeral and inconclusive. While her book will appeal to readers looking for a general survey of meat manufacture and culture, it will likely disappoint those expecting the "chick-lit spin on Michael Pollan" promised on the back cover. More successful transitions from blog to book include Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, Shauna James Ahern's Gluten-Free Girl, and Julie Powell's Julie and Julia.—Lisa Campbell, Univ. of Alabama Lib., Tuscaloosa
Kirkus Reviews
Food blogger Weaver charts her progress as a reluctant meat eater. "How does a vegetarian find herself in a butcher shop in the first place?" the author asks at the beginning of her memoir. She had been meat free since birth; at the age of ten she could distinguish millet from barley from buckwheat. But she was feeling fatigued, and her doctors suggested some meat in her diet. So for health reasons, she was game for a little carnivorous adventure, even with all the baggage: personal values, planetary concerns, family expectations. In 1970s Northern California, the vibe was cool, but Weaver had to admit that "[t]here was also a lot of bad food . . . My family did our grocery shopping in funky little health food stores that smelled like vitamins, musty and virtuous." On the author's meat-eating quest, she revels in flank steak with chimichurri rub and the perfect BBQ, and she queasily considers the bloody veins in beef stock bones: "That's when it dawns on me: shank means leg. This was someone's leg. I suddenly feel more vegetarian than ever before." Black pudding and crown roast defeat her, but she has the fortitude to stand on the slaughterhouse floor during kill time, and insight enough to appreciate that this is a personal quest-tied to matters of health and perception, but not a global answer to the meat-eating debate. After a particularly delicious meal, she writes, "It is all delicious; I eat it all and enjoy it. But the thing is, I don't need it . . . "Are the hippies right? Are we really supposed to be eating raw, enzyme-rich plant food? I'm going to be really pissed if that's true." All things considered, she's learned to love a bit of meat. A very human exploration, fromheart-searching to heart-gladdening. Agent: Danielle Svetcov/Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

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The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a long time vegetarian and enjoyed this book. I think it was interesting to hear the author's views on eating meat after being a vegetarian for so long (even though she did dabble with meat in her past so not completely new to her). It was very funny and I really loved her style and sense of humor. She did a lot of research and experienced all sides of meat eating and the meat industry. I will say that her descriptions of her meat meals made this long time veg's mouth water!
MotherLodeBeth More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books I want every meat eater to read. The chapters on the Prather Ranch up north of me near the Oregon border is one of the finest chapters of any food book I have ever read. The fact a woman I adore, admire and have some things in common with, Temple Grandin of Colorado State University is mentioned only made the piece better. Since I was raised in a hunting family where it was mandatory that we thanked the animal we were about to take for meat. Chapter Twelve is great because I see so many people cooking meat incorrectly and alas, unhealthy, and this chapter is a how to on cooking and in cooking right so you have NO waste. God I hate food waste. Getting back to the Prather Ranch which is a ten star set up where nothing is wasted, feed is raised on site and the cows are NOT finished off in some feed lot being fed corn which adds weight but is poorly digested. I want people to read this book and then demand, yes demand more Prather Ranch set ups, where a quick profit isn't the goal, but the healthiest beef, raised in a sustainable, environmentally sound ways as possible. Chapter 20 to which is titled How It Ends brings up some interesting questions.. The author notes on page 213 'Vegetarians are quieter with their opinions', which may be the case for her and her journey, which includes going back to being a non meat eater, but that's not the case with most people I have encountered and I am 80% vegetarian, or lacto ova (eat dairy and eggs). She also notes 'Many months and many hamburgers later, I still don't have a conclusive answer as to whether we humans should be eating meat or not.' Those who wonder if humans should eat meat, or those who believe humans should not eat meat, tend (in my view) to come at the issue from a comfortable, plentiful food supply here in the developed world place. Fact is native people in places above the arctic circle would perish if they didn't eat meat and seafood. They simply do not have ready access to the fruits, vegetables, and grains that I have access to. The poor nomadic people of dessert regions have to consume milk items they make from the camel, ox, horses milk.
Christine_Emming More than 1 year ago
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. Find this review and more at