Re: The Shameless Carnivore

Some people get obsessed with bread. Some people get obsessed with meat. Scott Gold is the latter, which led to him writing The Shameless Carnivore.

The book has a slow start, with some throat-clearing about how he came to write this book, how he decided on his list, how he arranged things, etc. etc. The good stuff comes when we finally get to actually preparing and eating the various meats. Some of my favorite parts include when he eats a furious-looking cuy (also featured in his interview on Good Food) or guinea pig. I was charmed by his joy at eating goat and caribou. When he follows up with a “tour du bouef”, eating various parts of a steer, he made frying up liver and onions sound like a real treat.

The book has so many anti-vegetarian rants, you get the impression that Gold is surrounded by obnoxious vegetarians. On the plus side, this leads to a serious discussion of the ethics, including the difference between a sound argument (the conclusion follows logically from the premises), and a sound argument (all the premises are true.) In particular, he takes issue with the premise that killing animals for meat is inherently wrong. He seems to find it more reasonable to take the Buddhist stance : eat meat if you must, and it’s less negative to be directly involved with the killing.

Except  if you’re going to write a book about meat, you have to get directly involved with the killing. In the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan goes boar hunting. On “No Reservations,” when Tony gets hungry, something dies. And so, Gold helps butcher a steer and goes squirrel hunting. These passages portray the shock of killing and the tedium of turning an animal into meat, leavened with the consolation they had good lives before the end.

I had a few quibbles. I wanted an index and a more detailed table of contents. I wanted a clearer accounting of whether he managed to eat 31 animals in 31 days, or 30 cuts of beef in 30 days.  When he mentions lab-grown meatlike products, he cites the environmental impact of farming, but fails to consider the impact of labs growing meat. Considering his discussion of meat-eating chimpanzees and our own fossil record, I was disappointed when he ate marrow, that he didn’t mention the piles of cracked bones left behind by ancient people extracting marrow.

Still, it’s no accident that I cooked up some beef diaphragm and tendon shortly after reading this.