Thursday, September 3, 2009

Less than six degrees of separation

The urban dictionary defines the six degrees of separation as "The theory that any two people in the world are connected in some way by no more than six people." I wondered if this theory held true for books.

One of my favorite books in the last decade is the Omnivore's Dilemma (right) by Michael Pollen. In particular I liked his chapter called "The Ethics of Eating Animals" with "The Steakhouse Dialogues." Pollen wrote about reading Peter Singer's book Animal Liberation while enjoying a steak decades ago. He went on to say how most of us would rather not be reminded what's involved in bringing that steak to the table and then he pondered Singer's philosophical arguments. Do animals reason? Do we have the right to raise them for food? And how exactly do we justify killing animals for dinner. Presenting the other side, Pollen suggested we've lost something by being vegetarian; we've alienated ourselves from cultural traditions that involve eating meat.

Singer's book from the 1970s hooked me, too, but then I'd hated eating meat, poultry and fish ever since I can remember. As a child my father forced me to cut up the leathery stuff on my plate and I swore when I grew up I wouldn't eat the stuff. My father was an excellent fisherman but boning trout, pounding abalone until it was tender and watching lobster boil for dinner, never made me hungry. When I met my husband Tom, he was raising pastured beef. Killed humanely, it was still beef to me. My culinary preferences remind me of my sister-in-law's aversion to strawberries. She can't stand them in anything, even the smell makes her nauseous. This culture doesn't ostracise people for the fruits or vegetables they won't eat, but many people get offended or don't know what to cook for people who don't eat meat. "You'll like our meat," I've heard farmers say. No I won't. Singer's book was right on and it gave me the excuse I was looking for to give up meat entirely and not feel bad about hurting some chef's feelings.

To get back to my title post, what's a vegetarian doing promoting books about pastured meats and how are these books related to my vegetarian cookbook? Okay, here it is: world traveler and writer Sharon Morris, Jo Robinson's sister, is in my writing group. Jo Robinson, New York Times best selling author of Pasture Perfect has spoken about book publishing and writing to our group. Her book is also sold at the farmers' markets by farmers who raise pastured beef. Jo has a website that I've mentioned before One of the farm profiles in the revised version of my book, Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon , has a link to Jo's website because they also sell pastured beef. Also, meticulous researcher Jo Robinson, contributed a great deal of information to Michael Pollen's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, check the aknowledgments. There you go, less than six degrees. Maybe next I'll find a link to Julia Child.

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