My friend Tea wrote this book. I’m so proud of her.
A few days ago I told you about our friend Lorna Yee’s book, The Newlywed Kitchen. (If you have not read the comments yet, please do. People telling stories of cooking with the ones they love have been making me teary for days. Thank you for sharing, everyone.) So you know that we have dear friends who write books. That might make us a little biased when we recommend these books to you.
I’m going to tell you right now: I am beyond biased when it comes to The Butcher and the Vegetarian. Tea is my dear friend, and I watched her struggle and grow through the entire process of writing, editing, and marketing this book. I adore her. And so, of course I recommend this book to you.
If you have read Tea and Cookies, you know that Tara can write like swallows can swoop and fly through the air. She is, in turns, generous and gently prodding us to better actions. Tara really watches the world, hard, with a kind eye. (And lately, with her camera, she creates lyrical images that leave me dreaming.) Sometimes, Tara feels crushed by the sadness of the world, the injustice of it. In those moments, she turns to the garden, to making jam, to sharing the passion of her friends, and to words. In the end, she chooses love.
How could I not adore her?
I’ve actually known Tea longer than I have known Danny. We connected through our blogs, of course. She had been reading mine, along with many more that inspired her, during a period of her life when she was not feeling well, low in energy and left wondering what was wrong with her. She wrote to me in January of 2006, introducing herself, and we wrote back and forth about blogs and book deals (I was still looking for an agent; Tea had just started her blog), about gluten and loving food, about fennel salad and meyer lemon sea salt, about nephews and nieces and cooking with them. We became instant fast-friend pen pals. When she next came to visit Seattle, I invited her into my home without having met her. After an evening of cooking, eating, and talking, we were friends forever.
(I had just met Danny by the time Tea and I finally met. Poor Tea must have been subjected to more than her fair share of schmoopy swoony talk.)
Since then, we have been friends through agents and book deals, weddings and births, her big move to Seattle, and her book being published. We don’t get to spend enough time together anymore. Since we live a ferry ride away from each other, and I have a toddler with a set bedtime and no car when Danny goes to work, my social life has dwindled down to a little puddle. But good friends survive times like these.
Through all of this, we have been talking about food and the politics of it, love and the search for it, people’s mystifying behavior and how we choose to love them anyway, memories, expectations, and gardening. Oh, and this business of both of us writing books for a living now, when we began as mere bloggers with no other intention than writing our hearts out and connecting with people who might understand us.
So, as you can see, I’m pretty hopelessly biased about her book.
My friend Tea is fearless. She would tell you I’m wrong, but I know her. Fearless, after all, doesn’t mean being free of fear, but of acknowledging it is there and moving through it anyway.
Tea is fearless because she took on the giant topic of meat and vegetarianism and what might be the best way to eat in this country when she wrote this book. Raised almost primarily as a vegetarian (she and her brother sometimes ate meat at restaurants or friends’ houses when they were growing up), she didn’t expect to ever cook and eat meat regularly. The period of not feeling well I described earlier led her to doctors and naturopaths who recommended she try eating meat. And so she did. Thus began an epic journey, one that still continues the journey to find her own, personal answer of how she wants to be in the world.
I’m not going to say much about what Tea ponders or discovers in The Butcher and the Vegetarian, because I want you to read it. This is a thoughtful, dynamic, laid-bare honest book. There are funny scenes and reveling-in-sensory pleasure scenes. There are trips to ranches, meetings with butchers, talks with farmers, and even a slaughter that Tea witnessed. You will find this book indelible.
How we eat meat is something we all deal with in this country, or at least we should. As you might know, I was a vegetarian for a full ten years, then started eating meat again about 10 years ago. It’s a personal decision that we each have to make. Danny and I buy most of our meat from local farmers and ranchers, or butchers that carry local meats.
However, I’ve read some sanctimonious people who insist that no one should buy meat at a grocery store again. That’s fine, if you have the money for a hamburger that costs $10. Danny and I, just today, bought some flank steak from a small local ranch, all grass fed. A pound and a half cost $16. Ouch. We put a good chunk of our money into food. Sometimes, we eat fewer meals with meat in them so we can afford the great cuts we love. Sometimes.
But many, many people in this country don’t have that option. This is clearly a class issue. And I love supporting small mom and pop restaurants run by people who have come to this country with a dream and who make a great bowl of beef noodle soup. Do we think those small restaurants are buying their beef from the same local ranchers where we bought our flank steak?
You see, Tea is braver than I am. Just writing this, I’m starting to cringe, because I know I will be blazed by angry letters and nasty comments from people who are irate that we eat meat, that we write a blog all about pork (which we love doing), that too few of our recipes are vegetarian. And I’m almost hesitating writing this, because it would just be easier to write about a baked good again.
Tea wrote an entire book about this conundrum, this drumming argument that is starting to run through our culture. To eat meat or not? That is the question.
We very much hope that you read The Butcher and the Vegetarian, not because it’s our friend who wrote it, but because you will be thinking about your food choices afterward in a different fashion. I really do not believe there is one right way. What we need is the conversation, conducted with kindness. This book will start you talking.
Rodale Press is giving away three copies of The Butcher and the Vegetarian here. If you’d like a copy of the book, please leave a measured, thoughtful comment here about how you are part of this conversation.
Green-Juice Simmered Millet and Green Reduction Sauce
Tara introduced me to this green juice, which seems to be a favorite of the raw food world. We’re not raw foodists, but I love this juice. It’s light and refreshing, with just a touch of sweetness from the tart apples. Lately, we’ve been pushing these vegetables through our juicer every morning, then drinking the juice when I return from my run. I also love it as the liquid base of smoothies with frozen blueberries and yogurt, plus a touch a of honey. Drink this and you feel healthy immediately.
Of course, you do have to own a juicer to make this juice. We are lucky enough to have this Breville juicer in our kitchen. It was a wedding present, and it has been in use in our kitchen most days since then. Worth the investment. However, there are less expensive juicers on the market that still work well. You might want to look at thrift stores too, since many people receive gifts like this and find they never use it. If you love to cook, and you find a juicer, you will probably keep it in your kitchen forever.
The other day, we decided to cook millet in the green juice, instead of stock or water. I loved it. The millet didn’t turn green or taste of kale. Instead, it had a faint vegetal sweetness behind the grain taste. It’s a good way to get your vegetables. Since Danny just did a video on making reduction sauces, we thought we’d toss one on here too.
Here he’d like me to tell you that he didn’t like the color of it. Too sludge-like. Green juices, when heated, turn a little brown. I didn’t care. It had a sweetness intensified by the reduction, yet an earthiness that remembered the vegetables. We put it on top of some barbecued pork loin, which made those bites disappear pretty quickly. But I’d probably put it on top of the millet next time. Good grain + a bit of sweetness + salt + a little fat from the butter = craveable.
We’ll definitely be making this again.
4 green apples
8 stalks celery
1 head Romaine lettuce
1 bunch Lacinato kale, stems and all
1 cup millet
2 1/4 cups green juice
2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups green juice (or whatever is remaining)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Making the juice. Put everything into a juicer, following your manufacturer’s instructions.
Cooking the millet. Set a large saucepan over high heat. Pour in the green juice, butter and salt and pepper. Bring the liquids to a boil and add the millet, then turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook the millet until the grain is tender to the bite, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If the liquid evaporates before the millet has finished cooking, add some juice.) Strain the millet and set it aside, reserving any juice for the sauce.
Making the reduction sauce. Put the remaining juice into a small saucepan. Turn the heat on high and bring the sauce to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to low and simmer the sauce until it has reduced by 1/2 its volume and starts to thicken a bit. Drop in the butter and whisk vigorously until the has been incorporated fully into the sauce (this is called emulsifying). Remove from heat.
Serve the millet with the sauce dribble on top. What sits on the rest of your plate is up to you.