When I cracked open ‘Killing It,’ I didn’t realize it was entirely about meat. Hailed as one of the best food-related reads from 2018, the gist as I understood it was a food writer leaves her career to become a chef. She goes to France to put her words into action. Doesn’t that sound fun? I saved this book for the plane on my most recent trip. Author Camas Davis opens with her first experience watching a pig being killed and butchered. With explicit detail.
Had I been duped? I thought this was going to be a lighthearted culinary ride in a French kitchen, like Julie & Julia, or a personal favorite of mine, Ratatouille! Somehow I missed the drawing of a pig on the title page, the quotes about life and meat before the first chapter, and oh yeah, the author with a meat cleaver on the cover. That really should have tipped me off. The first few pages were so gruesome, for a split second I thought that I didn’t want to read on. But it’s not as if Davis was crafting some scary fiction or creating an alternate reality. Animals are killed for meat, which lots of people enjoy. Why not pull back the curtain and find out how we get from A to B?
Lucky for us, Davis is a beautiful writer. Although some of the butchering scenes made me a little queasy – as they should, right? – I was totally captivated by this book. Her recounting of a summer in Gascon, France apprenticing with a family of pig farmers and butchers was as charming as it was educational. Weaving back and forth from butchery to her personal life felt effortless and a bit like I was intruding, as if I were reading her diary. (But who doesn’t want to read someone else’s diary??) She takes us through the highs and lows of shifting careers and starting her business, Portland Meat Collective; and the business of meat was not a trendy one at the time.
Aside from being a terrific story, ‘Killing It’ made me consider the ethics behind what I put on my plate. If you are a meat eater, do you know where your meat comes from? How it was raised? How exactly it got to your table? Does your butcher even know? How much do we know about our food system in general? This was an eye-opening page turner, and a nice alternative to a documentary or tv show that offers scare tactics to teach us about the meat industry. A perfect book to read if you’re looking for something more than a breezy beachside read…one with a little more meat to it.