Review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Title: Eating Animals
Author: Foer, Jonathan Safran
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Food
Why I Read It: I heard about this through Jessica’s review at Both Eyes Book Blog.
Date Read: 11/03/10
In this book Foer takes us on a tour of food production. He talks about the way we eat and how our families and friends influence what we eat and how this lasts throughout our lives. How we experience food is an important part of eating that I hadn’t really considered before. Foer says that becoming a father made him really consider the food that he and his family eats. He and his wife both ate vegetarian from time to time, but had never fully committed. Now that he was a father he wanted to make sure that his son got the healthiest diet he could give him, and this book is the result of his research.
Among the issues discussed in this incredible book are fishing (especially factory farming, long-lining, and trauling), the language we use to describe food production practices (i.e. how cage free simply means a lot of chickens shoved in a room instead of in cages in a room), factory farming, and modern diseases. In fact, in his research on chicken farming Foer tags along with “C” and sneaks in to a farmer’s chicken barns in the middle of the night to get a look at the place. While that story is shocking, this fact is even more shocking:
When the prestigious and well-heeled Pew Commission decided to fund a two-year study to evaluate the impact of factory farming, the reported that
there have been some serious obstacles … We found significant influence by the industry at every turn: in academic research, agriculture policy development, government regulation, and enforcement.
I loved the writing style employed by Foer. He is constantly changing it around. One chapter will be about personal stories, another will contain facts about certain issues, the next (my favorite) will be written as a series of definitions. Although Foer is vegetarian he gives everyone a fair voice. We hear from activists as well as from farmers and factory workers in slaughterhouses.
I highly recommend this book as it is full of information that the average consumer should know. Although we can be squeamish and we may, sometimes, prefer not to know, it is always better to know. My favorite quote about our eating habits, that really highlights the difficulties you can face when trying to eat both healthier or more ethically, is this one (eBook location 419):
The choice-obsessed modern West is probably more accommodating to individuals who choose to eat differently than any culture has ever been, but ironically, the utterly unselective omnivore – “I’m easy; I’ll eat anything” – can appear more socially sensitive than the individual who tries to eat in a way that is good for society.
As this is a fairly food related post I am going to count it toward Weekend Cooking, the weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. For more information you can check out the original introduction post here.
Because I am including it for this meme, I will include a recipe from this book (and if you’ve read it, I’m sure you know what is coming *evil giggle here*). In chapter two of this book Foer talks about why we eat what we do. He argues (eBook location 329) that:
Our taboo against dog eating says something about dogs and a great deal about us.
The French, who love their dogs, sometimes eat their horses.
The Spanish, who love their horses, sometimes eat their cows.
The Indians, who love their cows, sometimes eat their dogs.
While written in a much different context, George Orwell’s words (from Animal Farm) apply here: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
He goes on to discuss how it would make great environmental sense to eat dogs, and talks about how the way we are raised and the cultures we live in give us the ‘stories’ upon which we base what is acceptable or non acceptable when it comes to food.
So, without further ado, I give you (from eBook location 367):
Stewed Dog, Wedding Style
Cut meat into 1″ cubes. Marinate meat in mixture of vinegar, peppercorn, salt, and garlic for 2 hours. Fry meat in oil using a large wok over an open fire, then add onions and chopped pineapple and sauté until tender. Pour in tomato sauce and boiling water, add green pepper, bay leaf, and Tabasco. Cover and simmer over warm coals until meat is tender. Blend in puree of liver and cook for additional 5-6 minutes.
I can’t say I’ve tried this, and I’m thinking that I probably wont. But he definitely makes an interesting point in this chapter. (Oh, and I paraphrased the recipe for the reading of those weaker of stomach).