The author of Killing It, Camas Davis, was an editor of some repute for a food magazine in America. She was constructively dismissed whilst she was still in her thirties, which, coupled with a failed relationship, resulted in her securing a position on a quid-pro-quo basis in Gascony, France. Her aim was to learn the art of butchery, or rather ‘whole animal butchery’. This is the method whereby the entire animal is utilised, not just chops and ham.
I am not exactly overly enthusiastic about personal self-analysis, but maybe Camas Davis can be forgiven with this book. In it she describes her tutorship with a meat production system that is at odds with the normal industrialised, commercial enterprises. It makes for fascinating reading, especially due to her not really understanding her own personality, the French language, about meat, or butchery, and how life can get much better when slowed down.
As the book progresses, she finds her skills, or lack of them, propel her to eventually invent what is now known as ’The Portland Meat Collective’. Together with a few other like-minded individuals, they set out to change the standard perception of how meat is raised, butchered, prepared and cooked. They also strive to enrich us with meat that has flavour, a thing that is sadly lacking in this day and age. The question being, “How does the meat you eat, actually get to the table?”
This is a very well constructed book that resonates with the modern perception that meat always comes pre-packaged, insipidness guaranteed, butchered humanely, and to the consumer ‘hassle free’. The reality is a far cry from that perception. Camas Davis sets out, and is slowly succeeding, with her own butchery classes, and her fight against corporate duplicity, and cheating. The campaign has now taken on real strength as others of her ilk have begun their own collectives.
There is a certain amount of necessary, descriptive detail pertaining to the dispatching of animals, the evisceration methods, and the final results in culinary design. The author’s hope is to make people aware of this knowledge, instead of it being hidden away, concealed behind impenetrable screens of commerce, and often resulting in the food scares that seem to occur every now and then. There is too much missing in the world of meat as far as the consumer is concerned; Camas Davis strives to eliminate this loss.
There is a massive amount of irony in various situations that develop as she goes her way. Allied with this lies a great deal of fun, emotions, personal relationships, and much more. I found the book certainly thought provoking on many fronts, and exposing much to scrutiny. I enjoyed reading it tremendously.
Reg Seward 5/4
Killing It: Learning the Art of Butchery by Camas Davis
Picador 9781509811007 hbk Jul 2018