Image credit: Ecco Publishers/Anthony Bourdain
When I wrote about Anthony Bourdain's account of famous chefs feasting on an endangered species, commenter downdrive was disappointed that his favorite travel writer would stoop so low. But as I continue to read his new book Medium Raw, I thought it important to share that Mr Bourdain—hardly your typical TreeHugger—also has some strong words to say about unsustainable meat, factory farming, and even the importance of eating less flesh. Who knew?Sure, Anthony Bourdain is unlikely to start embracing raw food veganism any time soon. This is a man who once described vegans as "hezbollah-like", and devotes an entire chapter in his book to criticising gastro-eco-saint Alice Waters. (Not to mention that he eats illegal, endangered birds for fun too.)
But, having said all that, it is important to note that there is common ground to be had. Because even Mr Bourdain, it seems, believes we may just be eating a little too much meat:
In this way, me and the PETA folks and the vegetarians have something in common, an area of overlapping interests. They don't want us to eat any meat. I'm beginning to think, in light of recent accounts, that we should, on balance, eat a little less meat.
This is the kind of thinking that has lead many people to embrace weekday vegetarianism, rediscover a love of offal, and generally look to find ways to end a reliance on boring, gigantic slabs of protein as the centerpiece of every meal.
But while some people are motivated by carbon emissions and virtue, for Bourdain it is all about flavor, and some level of safety:
PETA doesn't want stressed animals to be cruelly crowded into sheds, ankle-deep in their own crap, because they don't want any animals to die - ever - and basically think that chickens should, in time, gain the right to vote. I don't want animals stressed or overcrowded or treated cruelly or inhumanely because that makes them provably less delicious. And often less safe to eat."
In many ways, this is one more example of the classic conundrum—does morality matter in saving the planet? After all, if foodies declare sustainable, organic farming and a lower meat diet desirable, does it matter what their motivation is? Ultimately, we need to find a way to a lower energy, lower meat, more sustainable cultural diet. If folks are motivated by flavor and food safety, not carbon emissions and getting gold stars from Al Gore, then I for one am excited. Maybe we can all get on board.
There is, it should be noted, one important caveat to Mr Bourdain's profession of love for safe, sustainable meat. The hot dog, he says, has always been, and always should be, a dance with death:
With the hot dog there was always a feeling of implied consent. We always knew—or assumed we knew—that whatever was inside that snappy tube, it might contain anything from 100 percent kosher beef to dead zoo animals or parts of missing Gambino family. With a hot dog, especially New York's famous "dirty-water hot dog", there was a tacit agreement that you were on your own.
Then again, there's a sustainability element here too. After all, eating guts, brains and genitalia has a certain greenness to it too.
More on Meat Eating and Sustainability
Why Eating Guts, Brains, Feet and Genitalia is Green (Video)
The Offal Truth: Would You Eat Guts, Brains and Genitalia?
Why Graham Hill is a Weekday Vegetarian, and You Should Be Too
Vegetarian Diet Could Cut Climate Change Mitigation Costs by 70 Percent