No Meat Required by Alicia Kennedy [6/10]

Food writer and former bakery owner, once a vegan but now a vegetarian, Alicia Kennedy has penned a rollicking combination of polemic and cultural/political analysis. No Meat Required: The Cultural History and Culinary Future of Plant-Based Eating. Being a recent convert in the opposite direction, from vegetarianism to veganism, and being intensely interested in the politics and economics of meat eating versus non-meat eating, I came to this book ripe for discovery, and mostly I savored the read. The author takes us on a journey of U.S. non-meat-eating history, dissecting the currents and sub-currents of vegetarianism/veganism over the twentieth century up to the present, a swirling river of shifting attitudes revolving around ethics, health considerations, and (lately) carbon footprints. The contrast between pre-hippy times and feminism from the hippy decades onwards, was fascinating, as is her current perspective on the modern fake burgers of Beyond and Impossible. As she puts it: “But the world of the conscientious omnivore and happy vegetarian living in harmony is no longer presented as an option. It’s an anachronism, apparently. Now we have two perspectives on the future being presented to us: continue with factory farming and monocropped GMO corn and soy, or surrender to the world of tech meat where we replace those with pea and oat.” Her dissections/arguments turned out, I felt, to ramble a bit in an unfocused way, but overall, No Meat Required adds to an important global discussion and will interest anyone interested in food politics and culture in the Anthropocene Era.

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