[I stopped writing book reviews ten years ago, when I angered Marion Cunningham, who I believed to be a flawed goddess who wrote a very flawed book; it’s hard to be honest without angering people. And there’s another intrinsic problem: about half my friends write books, so it’s sometimes tough to be objective. Still; there’s no better way for me to understand the world of food books than to write about it, and I’m starting here. [Why with this book is a good question, but the answer is simply that I found it intriguing.] – mb)
I came to Meat Is for Pussies (John Joseph, Crush Books, $19.50) prejudiced in its favor. I think we eat too much meat; I like in-your-face writing; I think Big Food has too much power; I think our diet needs to change.
Yet do we need a “how-to guide for dudes who want to get fit, kick ass and take names”? What does “take names mean, anyway?” What about chicks, or whatever you call the counterpart of dudes?
Clearly, I’m not the target audience: I’m way too old, I’m not from Brooklyn, and I don’t really know who John Joseph is. But the science here is non-existent, there’s little or no consistency, and it reads like a not-very-well-grounded 200 page rant. Much of it is a well-deserved diatribe against processed foods (in fact there is a section advocating a mostly raw diet), yet there’s a recipe that calls for WestSoy Seitan (brand names abound, by the way), San-J Sweet & Tangy Sauce, Daiya Vegan Gourmet cheddar cheese, and Tofutti Sour Supreme. Who is going to be convinced to change their diet by that? And has Joseph ever read the label of Earth Balance butter substitute, Ener-G Egg Replacer, or Gardein Chick-n Strips, all of which he recommends? How does he define “processed,” one wonders?
But the few recipes, many of which are straightforward and just fine, are not the real turn-off here; it’s the insulting attitude. If you’re not a vegan, if you’re not eating organic food at every opportunity, then you’re a spineless wimp and an idiot and you need to change your life. (If you’re a woman, this doesn’t apply; you’re not even directly addressed here.)
One has to love Joseph’s attitude: “I want to make others healthy,” he writes, “end animal slaughter, feed the needy, save the planet, fight ignorance and help the youth….” But evidently he wants to do so by believing every “scientific” study and wild claim that proves his main point, which is that… meat is for pussies. Do you have erectile dysfunction? Eat less meat. (Viagra, by the way, is for pussies too.) Colonics work. Wine and meat taken together “form a deadly chemical reaction in your stomach.” “Fast food is the new crack.” And, my favorite: “Yoga spots and vegetarian restaurants are some of the best places to meet smoking hot chicks.”
Joseph notes that “nobody likes being preached at.” But that’s all he does here, and it’s not convincing. There is some good sentiment (I have no problem calling Monsanto “the devil incarnate,” for example), and even some credible advice, though none of it is novel.
The novelty is in the presentation: personal, macho, and loud. You have to “Stop being a lazy pussy.” If you appreciate this “advice,” you’re probably not reading this; if you’re reading this, my guess is you won’t appreciate it. (Or the pictures of the “100% vegan ass-kickers”: all men, of course.)