Two new books focusing on meat, Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” and David Sax’s “Save the Deli,” offer fascinating and contrasting views on the value of meat in American Jewish culture. Although the books are, so to speak, apples and oranges — “Eating Animals” is a moral indictment of factory farming and “Save the Deli” is a rhapsody for a disappearing culinary institution — they suggest the diverse, divergent ways in which American Jewish life is defined by its attitudes about food.
Several years ago, when Philip Roth's novel "Portnoy's Complaint" turned 25, I spent a few days in the New York Public Library researching the Jewish community's reaction to the book. I discovered that the response to it (as well as to the stories in "Goodbye, Columbus," which appeared a few years earlier) was a combination of rage and puzzlement. The level of shock and hurt expressed by community leaders was less surprising to me, though, than the unanimity of response.
With his much-hyped new book, “Eating Animals,” Jonathan Safran Foer has managed to do something that my vegetarian husband and daughter have been unable to pull off: sworn me off meat, at least all conventionally raised meat.
Nathan Englander's first book, "For the Relief of Unbearable Urges," caused considerable buzz when it was released in 1999. Tall and slender, with a mane of dark curls and soft features befitting a biblical hero, the 30-something author became the darling of the Jewish book-fair circuit, drawing swarms of potential book buyers in Jewish Community Centers and synagogues nationwide.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, a local shochet provides a sharp contrast to the big slaughterhouses.
Special to the Jewish Week
Walton, N.Y. — Andy Kastner rarely eats meat and wishes others would eat less, too.
So why, you might ask, was this man slaughtering kosher turkeys this week for Thanksgiving?
Kastner is a shochet, the fellow ordained to kill livestock according to Jewish law. But he also considers himself an educator. It’s his job, he explained, to remind the public about the cost of meat beyond the sticker price: in blood and emotion.
“It’s a profound experience that is generally written off as disgusting or brutal,” he said.
Although best-selling novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s just-released book, “Eating Animals,” makes a strong argument for vegetarianism, his work-in-progress, a new Haggadah, will not have a vegetarian — or indeed, any — theme other than the pursuit of literary excellence.