Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef

Betty Fussell, Author . Harcourt $26 (402p) ISBN 978-0-15-101202-2

Fussell (My Kitchen Wars ; The Story of Corn ) follows beefsteaks from cattle pens in 17th-century Manhattan to Brooklyn's Peter Luger Steak House today. On her visits to an independent Vermont butcher, ranching couples in Colorado and Oregon and feedlot owners in Kansas, Fussell critiques the polemical meat writing of Michael Pollan and the mythology of a rare, bloodied “he-man food” by giving an evenhanded look at the many sides of beef. One visit with Temple Grandin explores the work of the “outsider” cattle researcher who wants to foster a cow's-eye view of animal husbandry; similarly, Fussell's research into the lives of the men—and, particularly, the women—who raise and research cattle presents a human-eye view of an industry riddled with impersonal jargon and machismo. Fussell also participates in grading and weighing cuts of beef, attending an industry conference and even dressing in a pair of heels to play a part as a rodeo cowgirl. The breadth of her observations is impressive—from congressional decisions to simplified anecdotes from the voyage of Lewis and Clark and quotes from Woody Allen—but such details might become tedious for casual readers. Illus., with recipes. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 09/01/2008
Release date: 10/01/2008
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-547-24769-4
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