Twenty-three years ago, I ceased eating meat. Over time, I’ve gone through incarnations of eating seafood and not eating seafood (currently it’s on the menu); but I freely admit that I’ve never given as much thought to the why of my pisco-lacto-vegetarianism as has the gifted writer, (and thoughtful eater), Tovar Cerulli.
In The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance (Pegasus Books, 2012), Cerulli beautifully chronicles his philosophical approach to eating and living. The book follows his journey from eschewing not only flesh but all animal products—such as milk and honey—to becoming, improbably, a hunter of deer in New England’s woods.
Rest assured, his journey is far from a navel-gazing or vain adventure. In his writing, Cerulli interweaves literary influences and meditations that span from Buddhism to animal-rights ethics to farming to hunting. It’s an approach that augments the threads of his personal life narrative with a broader connection to the link between the ethics of how animals (both wild and domestic) are treated in our normal channels of food production—even the organic farming of vegetables.
The vast array of sources Cerulli draws upon reveal his deep interest in pursuing “mindful” eating, and exposes his driving mission to seek out the “right” way to live. I interpreted this “right path,” in his view, to be one of minimal impact to the natural world, but also one that yields a healthy diet and a deep personal connection to food and how it is produced.
One of the things I most appreciated about Cerulli’s book is the honesty he demonstrates in anecdote after anecdote when explaining how his thoughts and attitudes toward food, and animals in particular, have changed over time. Continue reading