A Fresh Look at What You Eat
By Sarah Elton
Owlkids Books, 2017
Food writer Sarah Elton is a confirmed carnivore, but when she had to help kill a chicken, "I finally understood what it means to eat meat," she writes in Meatless? A Fresh Look at What You Eat. The question mark in the title implies the author will discuss why people are going meatless.
Elton begins by focusing on the explosion of meat eating. She presents a brief history of meat eating as well as a history of vegetarianism. She writes about the meaning of meat in different cultures. For example, meat meant wealth in Medieval Europe, while in Asia it became a feature of dietary moderation. Religious attitudes toward eating meat vary widely in six major religions.
In Part Two: Why Go Vegetarian, the author outlines the major reasons for eating this way. She expresses concerns about animal welfare in a factory-farm system and discusses the devastating costs to the environment. A cow has to eat 10 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of beef. In addition, water is needed to grow the grain and provide drinking water for the cow. The environment takes a big hit when cows create greenhouse gases that pollute the air.
"Farmers are raising more and more animals--so many, in fact, that 89 percent of the world's farmland is used for raising livestock," she says. While the meat eaters enjoy their diet, many people in the world lack food security or enough nutritious food.
In the chapter If Not Meat, Then What? Elton begins by discussing the essentials of a healthy diet: protein, iron zinc, calcium, fats and fatty acids, and Vitamin B12. For each of these essentials she provides information about where it is found, what it does, and meat-free sources. She offers dishes from six different cultures around the world that are nutritious options. The chapter concludes with substitutes for meat: tofu, seitan, tempeh, chickpea flour, and cashew cream.
Becoming a Vegetarian offers advice on how to safely accomplish this task. In a visually attractive chart the author and illustrator combine their talents to advise:
The two-page spread Meat Free Week chart is designed to give ideas to the newbie vegetarian to achieve success.
The author advises telling family and friends about the decision to go vegetarian, giving them reasons for the choice as well as explaining the need to eat a well-balanced diet.
Elton ends the book with a powerful message, "So whether you choose to eat meat or do without--to be a vegetarian or a flexitarian or a straight up carnivore--think about why you've made that personal decision. It's your choice. And then, no matter what, make sure there's room at your table for everyone.
Concluding the book are a glossary, sources, further reading, and recommended vegetarian cookbooks.
Meatless? is not a polemic written by a vegetarian or vegan trying to persuade the reader to choose a vegetarian diet. Instead, it attempts to get young people to understand why people decide to adopt a vegetarian approach to food. In 48 lavishly illustrated pages, the author manages to provide much information without presenting too much detail. Kudos go to Julie McLaughlin for her engaging illustrations on every page. This book is designed to appeal to 4th through 8th grade readers, but because it's so informative, parents may want to read it along with younger children.