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Mark Mathew Braunstein
- Publié sur Amazon.com
"What is for supper?" is a short question with a long history of many answers. "Why is it for supper?" is more recently and less frequently asked. One long answer is The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, a fresh evaluation of how the other half of America eats, that is, the other half of one-percent.
Sandor Ellix Katz, author also of Wild Fermentations, examines our food choices, challenging us as would a moral philosopher, and inspiring us as might a romantic poet. But unlike poetry and philosophy, his texts are thoroughly researched and extensively footnoted. Scholarly without being stuffy, he ponders the social, political, ethical and environmental consequences of the foods we choose to eat, of the foods we choose not to eat, and of even our very acts of choosing. Food for thought about food.
Each chapter offers a wholesome essay that can be read independently of the others. Though inexpensive for a book of nearly 400 pages, its binding is especially durable. If separated physically from the whole, the leaves of each chapter stay bound together. This reviewer speaks from experience, having extracted entire chapters in this manner to distribute among friends.
Such portability is an appealing feature precisely because the topics are so diverse that few readers could possibly find the entire book relevant to their lives. Chapters such as these: Seed saving as political statement. Seeking and drinking raw cow's milk as acts of civil disobedience. The corporate takeover of natural foods, and the USDA makeover of organic foods. Whole food as healer, and processed food as killer. Medicinal herbs, including marijuana, as not just alternatives to pharmaceuticals, but their very basis. Pure and free water as birthright, now imperiled by pollution and privatization. Gardening as a means of reclaiming Eden. Vegetarianism as an act of compassion in contrast to carnivorous cruelty.
Vegetarians will be especially sensitive to and maybe even appreciative of the author's discussion of vegetarianism. Katz, a lapsed vegetarian, weighs the significance of life as a vegetarian among omnivores. The reasons for his own vegetarian apostasy are especially edifying. The chapter "Vegetarian Ethics and Humane Meat" begins almost with a confession: "I love meat. The smell of it cooking can fill me with desire.... At the same time, everything I see, hear, or read about standard commercial factory farming and slaughtering fills me with disgust." Whether filled with desire or with disgust, the author writes with humility and clarity. And charity. He continues: "I hold great respect for the ideals that people seek to put into practice through vegetarianism."
Katz acknowledges that vegetarians will brand "humane meat" a contradiction of adjective with noun, yet he nobly and duly presents the gist of vegetarian ethics and effectively distills into a few pages what we'd expect from an entire book.
This emerging moral vocabulary is one whose etymologies can be attributed to vegetarian evangelists and animal liberationists. Their shouts of protest and their cries of lamentation have been heard. Many meat eaters grown uneasy with their own complicity now seek the lesser of several evils. Michael Pollan, the eloquent author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, too deserves credit for expanding this lexicon.
Pollan, however, is less forthright about his own omnivorism than is Katz. Instead, Pollan applies his considerable intelligence merely to rationalize and bolster his considerable decadence. For Pollan, meat's taste trumps its waste. Rather than renounce meat as a superfluity, he chooses to denounce its cruelty. So thanks to Pollan and to his readers whom he has rallied to the cause, many herds of open-pasture cows and many flocks of free-range hens are now being spared the horrors of the feedlot and the factory farm. But that is small comfort to the cows and the hens still prodded on their death march to the slaughterhouse.
Pollan hunted a feral pig to write about it. Katz slaughtered a farm-raised pig to eat it. For Katz, writing is an afterthought to eating, as when he describes in necessary detail the physical difficulties of slaughtering a pig or a chicken. And Katz's book, in contrast to Pollan's, is one of few about food in which narrative use of the first person is welcomed and warranted. This is because Katz's life experiences and his resulting perspectives both are so very unique.
For instance, Katz expresses disillusionment with the pharmaceutical industry, yet he admits to his dependence upon their pills and potions for treatment of his AIDS. He even chronicles the long struggle of his unsuccessful attempt to survive and function without those pills and potions. Such candor about being poz is rare, and a testament to the author's integrity. Let's hope that Katz copes well with AIDS, and that he lives a long and healthy life, long enough to complete his third book, and fourth and fifth and sixth.
- Mark Mathew Braunstein [[ the reviewer is the author of Sprout Garden and of Radical Vegetarianism ]]