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The Green Life: Book Review Wednesday: Books About Dinner's Victims

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November 24, 2010

Book Review Wednesday: Books About Dinner's Victims

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Before Thanksgiving, check out one of these titles about the creatures who gave their lives for your Thanksgiving feast.

The Sacred White Turkey (by Frances Washburn, $14, Bison Books, 2010): Though there are plenty of people out there deviating from tradition, Thanksgiving is still the home of the cooked, grilled, or smoked Meleagris gallopavo. But the titular creature in this tale shows up on Easter and is pure white, setting it apart from the Thanksgiving icon even before it affects an entire community. Told from the perspective of a teenage Lakota girl and her medicine-woman grandmother, this story is well-written and ambiguous enough not to spoil your appetite.

Ninety-Five: Meeting America's Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs (edited by No Voice Unheard, $20, 2010): Vegeterian advocates No Voice Unheard put together a gallery of beautiful barnyard critters, all rescued from various atrocities, all with a name, a face, a story. Attaching personality to these individuals (including Justice, the steer that escaped from a slaughterhouse-bound truck) merits a rephrasing of an age-old mantra: "Who's for dinner?"

Duck for Turkey Day (by Jacqueline Jules, $17, Albert Whitman & Co., 2009): Tuyet's Vietnamese family isn't eating turkey on Thanksgiving, so naturally, she's terrified of the ridicule she'll get from her peers. Jules's children's tale for the modern holiday notes that turkey is absent from many tables, but also captures kids' universal conflicts: acceptance, fitting in, and being unnecessarily embarrassed by family members. Tuyet learns that holidays aren't about sticking to a set of rules, but celebrating traditions with those closest.

Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man (by Steve H. Graham, $13, Citadel Press, 2008): If you Google the phrase "Eat what you want," the search engine will assume you'll finish with "and still lose weight." Typing in "...and die" will bring you to Graham's book, indicating just how stark the contrast of his dietary views may be. His narrative about preparing and cooking turducken is especially stirring; he explains why it fails ("It's an immense loaf of flesh with four useless limbs"), what it's like to debone three birds, and extends the view of the notorious dish past mere novelty. Graham may care more about taste than health, but that doesn't make him any less knowledgeable of a voice in the kitchen.

Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef (by Mark Schatzker, $26, Viking Adult, 2010) Trotting from Texas to Japan, food writer Mark Schatzker searches for the most delicious steak (he consumes 100 pounds of it on his way), but the formula responsible for its perfection. He consults even the U.S. Department of Agriculture for advice on what brings out the best in a bovine. While his conclusion tastes like something of a cop-out ("Each steak is a different pleasure"), his dedication and the lengths to which he goes are difficult not to admire.

--Justin Klugh

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