As you would expect from the quirky and strong-minded Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, The River Cottage Meat Book
is a quirky and strong-minded book. This arm-straining volume (weighing in at an impressive and well illustrated 543 pages) is quite the most ambitious volume yet by an author who absolutely refuses to be categorised. Is he a cookery writer? An expert on the sociology and history of food? An eccentric TV personality? Actually, of course, he's all three (and more); and all of his various skills find expression in this, his magnum opus.
The first intriguing question that The River Cottage Meat Book inspires is: what is the author's agenda? The book has so many aims it's difficult to know where to begin. First of all, this is a definitive guide to the preparation and cooking of meat, in all its various forms. Fearnley-Whittingstall deals (in assiduous detail) with such topics as roasting, grilling and preserving everything from turkey to trotters, in a variety of recipes that he obviously knows and loves. But there is far more to the book than this--fascinating sections on the many different types of meat (lamb, pork and so on) are crammed with information on the different cuts of meat and what they should be used for.
But as someone who raises and utilises his own livestock at the River Cottage, Fearnley-Whittingstall is clearly passionate about the welfare of animals bred for food, and provides some unpalatable information on widespread misdemeanours in these areas. If nothing else, this book will persuade you that it's a good idea to buy your meat from butchers who are equally passionate about these issues, or even direct from reputable farms. The concept makes sound ideological sense, but also ensures that your meat dishes will have an unrivalled depth of flavour. --Barry Forshaw
Unflinching respect for the animal and commitment to the truth sets Fearnley-Whittingstall apart from the rest of the food-writing mob. This is the most honest cookbook I have found, reeking with helpful, hands-on wisdom. It is everything it should be and more ... deliciously funny, well written and neither macho nor sanctimonious. If you eat meat, you will buy, prepare and cook it better having read this book. (Jill Dupleix, The Times)
Thumpingly enormous, extremely good, and manages to be at once a recipe collection, a series of tutorials on the principles of cooking, a directory of organic suppliers, a philosophical essay, a timely report on the state of intensive farming and a forceful polemic (Sam Leith, Daily Telegraph)
The sheer wealth of information is amazing and it is truly one of the most informative and passionate books you will ever read on the subject. It should be bought by every meat-eating household, as well as every butcher and supermarket manager throughout the land (Martin Koerner, Waterstones Books Quarterly)
I have been unable to put it down ... I urge all meat lovers to go and buy it. It is excellent (Mervyn Hancock, Western Daily Press)
Carefully researched, revelatory and powerful... The technical bits of the book are especially good and equip you with an understanding that is all too often absent from celebrity chef offerings ... delivered with lively writing and endearingly corny puns (Felicity Lawrence, Guardian)
A tome as heavy as a newborn piglet ... brave and deeply challenging stuff... a refreshing and triumphant antidote to dumbed-down recipe writing... positively incendiary (Joanna Blythman, Sunday Herald)
The solitary TV regular who can write a decent cookbook ... the enthusiastic carnivore will relish all 550 pages (Christopher Hirst, The Independent)
The best new book of the year without a shadow of a doubt, a serious treatise, a meat cookery bible and a supremely appetising recipe collection. Fearnley-Whittingstall is our most important and eloquent food writer today. His finger is always on the pulse. He tells it as it is without pulling punches and without wagging a moralising finger. This is the work of a thoughtful and caring omnivore. Everyone who eats meat should have a copy, and some who have stopped eating meat may find reasons in it to reconsider meat-eating in a fresh light (Philippa Davenport, Financial Times)