The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt For Sustenance Hardcover – Feb 7 2012
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Bullseye! This coming-of-age story is right on target in equating living—and killing—with eating. Cerulli cuts through forests of argument by a thoughtful and thrilling narrative as he turns from vegan to hunter, stalking, killing and eating his first deer. We experience his growing awareness of what it means to be fully involved in the web of nature. With him we can wonder at its complex mystery and share in “mindful eating” as a sacred act. — Betty Fussel, author of The Story of Corn and Raising Steaks
Pondering his stance on hunting and eating meat, a committed vegan delivers an entertaining and erudite meditation on his place in the natural world. Cerulli examines the politics of food and the contentious debates that have ambushed America’s conversation about the food supply. He assumes the role of the reasonable yet probing narrator, raising questions and pointing out the contradictions and truths contained within the multiple viewpoints he discusses. The refreshingly evenhanded tone allows readers to judge the author’s argument on the merits of his literary and personal evidence. Today’s noisy media environment often consists of rigid, uninformed viewpoints passed off as the sole truth. Cerulli provides a welcome antidote to the bluster. — Kirkus Reviews
Tovar Cerulli embarks on an unlikely journey from vegan to hunter, laying bare the complicated relationship we have with the food we eat, exposing the many myths and prejudices that pile up on our plates. Full of compassion, curiosity, and a nourishing eloquence, Mindful Carnivore is a healthy reminder that our choices matter and an invitation to vegetarians and carnivores alike to examine their paths to sustenance.” — Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land
Cerulli offers penetrating insights into not only where our food comes from, but what our daily dietary choices say about who we are as human beings. — Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook
Within these pages Tovar Cerulli navigates our role in the cycle of life in a way that is spiritual, intuitive, and profoundly real. By witnessing his transformation from staunch vegan to thoughtful hunter, we are reminded that mindful hunting not only makes us stewards of the land, but thoughtful eaters and more awake human beings. Bravo! — Georgia Pellegrini, author of Girl Hunter and Food Heros
Tovar Cerulli has written the book I’ve been waiting for. It’s memoir, adventure story, and exploration. His journey is from vegan to hunter, but it’s more than that. It’s a journey into history, ethics, nutrition, ecology, and philosophy. And doubt. All while in pursuit of a deer. It’s an entertaining read—in fact, it’s an entertaining ride—into human experience. A savory morsel indeed. — Daniel Herman, Professor, Central Washington University
About the Author
Tovar Cerulli awarded a graduate school fellowship by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2009, where he is researching diverse perspectives on human relationships with the natural world. He lives in Vermont with his wife, Catherine. Visit his webiste at www.tovarcerulli.com.
Top Customer Reviews
I lent it to a friend, buddhist and vegetarian, who really enjoyed it also.
A real antidote to vegan extremism.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I found the book clear, insightful, and very beautifully written. The point about the complexity of the web of interdependence is well-illustrated and reenforced throughout but not heavy-handed. There's a lot of interesting information on the history of hunting and wildlife management, as well as the wide spectrum of philosophical stances and approaches found among hunters. There's definitely an element of suspense as well, whether you happen to be rooting for man or deer.
For the record, I have known the author for many years. I am not a hunter. I have been a vegetarian, and am a vegetarian sympathizer.
"This is how I see it," is basically what he says. It's never, "this is how YOU should see it."
He just presents the opportunity, and the reader can hardly help but take it.
It's not a completely comfortable book, especially for the long-time hunter. Tovar tips some sacred cows in his quest to find answers, and he asks some pretty tough questions. For example, he challenges the often contorted logic that hunters need good PR, so we should be ethical and safe. Shouldn't we be ethical and safe anyway? Good PR will logically follow.
In his very thoughtful approach to the decision to kill a deer, and in the efforts that culminate in his first success, Tovar sheds a little light on the thought process that many of us long-time hunters have come to take for granted. To me, at least, it was an opportunity to look back at my own choices and decisions and take stock of where my personal ethics come into play. I think there's a lot of value in a book that makes you stop to think without telling you what you should be thinking. And this is what makes The Mindful Carnivore a great book.
As Cerulli tells a deeply personal story of his own journey from vegan to hunter, he connects his experiences to larger themes having to do with meat, meaning, and the karmic costs of every food on his table--including the brown rice, tofu, and organic vegetables. As you'll immediately guess from the book's title and cover, Cerulli is now something of a venison evangelist. But he wasn't always. After reflecting on the compassionate words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, he became a vegetarian at age 20. Soon, after learning more about the modern egg and dairy industries, he went completely vegan. Eventually, however, he began to have second thoughts.
"I realized," he writes in his bio for a recent panel discussion, "that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless. Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn't what we ate but how that food came to our plates. A few years later, my wife--who was studying holistic health and nutrition--suggested that we shift our diet, and my health improved when we started eating dairy and eggs. It improved still more when we started eating chicken and fish."
Two years later, Cerulli picked up a rifle and stepped into the deer woods. When he did, he also brought with him a vegetarian's values and sensibilities. This was not a decision he made lightly, and it's one he still thinks about quite a lot. He is indeed a mindful carnivore.
As far as I know, Cerulli is also the writer who first coined a delightful neologism that appears to be sticking: the "adult-onset hunter." The term is appearing more often, and so are the hunters it describes. Cerulli is one, and I am myself. If you're one, too, then this book is definitely for you. I suspect that most of us adult-onset hunters are the kind of people who tend to think just a little too much about where our food comes from.
And even if you've been hunting all your life, you'll find fascinating the ideas that Cerulli explores in The Mindful Carnivore. Today fewer than 15% of Americans hunt, and some surveys suggest that as few as 5% of us get out in the field regularly, year after year. Hunters are definitely a tiny minority. When they find themselves feeling besieged and persecuted, they'd do well to reach for some fresher, more useful intellectual and philosophical ammunition than the usual stale, warmed-over José Ortega y Gasset they've been trotting out for the past half-century or so. They could do no better than The Mindful Carnivore. (In the book, and then later in his notes, Cerulli also mentions several other works that will be of interest to his hunting and nonhunting readers. He's been thinking about these questions a lot, and it's clear he's also been discussing and reading about them a lot.)
I hope that even a few open-minded vegans will give this book a chance. But in the end, Tovar may find a larger audience among open-minded nonhunters who are already mindful omnivores. And who knows? Once they've finished reading The Mindful Carnivore, they may come to view hunters and hunting differently. They may even come to view the meat and vegetables on their own plates differently. I hope their neighbors who do hunt will invite them over for venison, vino, and some interesting conversations about what all this means.
I have to agree with the Kirkus Reviews, which described the book as an "entertaining and erudite meditation." It's an enjoyable read that will also give you some big ideas to chew on. (Sorry.) I'm afraid other reviewers have already used this and nearly every other possible food or meat-related metaphor, leaving me only the most obvious: The Mindful Carnivore is definitely food for thought.
In fact, as a male non-hunter, I bought five books on the "why" of hunting all at once, and read the two written by women, "Call of the Mild" and "Girl Hunter," first. Then I read "The Mindful Carnivore." I figured these two female authors and a male former vegan would provide a really unique, thoughtful perspective on the subject--and they did. At least Cerulli and Lily Raff McCaulou did--not so much Georgia Pellegrini. Her book was more about getting driven around on a golf cart or ATV by the billionaire owners of huge privately owned nature preserves, shooting animals that were RAISED in-house to be hunted, and then getting drunk on expensive scotch and eating gourmet food afterward (seriously?!?........stay away from "Girl Hunter" by the way).
"The Mindful Carnivore" was certainly worth reading and I'm glad I did. Knowing basically nothing about hunting, I learned quite a bit. It was just a bit too sensitive for me. At times a little out there. I have to say after having read Cerulli's book, I'm really looking forward to what I imagine will be a much more masculine perspective from Steven Rinella. I think once I finish his two books--completing the five I purchased together--I'll have a lot better idea of what it means to be a hunter, from multiple perspectives, which was the goal. I've been curious about hunting ever since I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" several years ago and I want to get away from factory farmed food--particularly animals. If you feel the same, this book is certainly worth the cost.
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