I couldn’t wait to get my sticky little fingers on Meat Manifesto by Andy Fenner, a name that meat eaters all over have come to recognise as an icon of premium quality, ethical sourcing and damn good flavour.
As head honcho of Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, Andy and Nicole (his wife and co-owner) have emerged from South Africa’s artisanal foodscape to become the country’s most celebrated organic meat producers. They believe in treating animals with care from the start, so that they grow up happy and healthy before reaching your plate.
Since first digging my nose deep into Meat Manifesto, I’ve been completely absorbed by all the goodness and good sense that Andy dishes out liberally across its pages.
I love that he is so passionate about his craft. The way he speaks about the origins of the meat, the use of different cuts, and using every part of the animal. The emphasis he places on actually speaking to your butcher and getting to know how to cook the various bits and bobs you’d otherwise leave behind. The full spectrum of advice and recipes that run the gamut across beef, lamb, pork, chicken and even goat. As a reader, you’ll find yourself nodding at how much you didn’t know you didn’t know about the animals we eat – before and after they become our food.
This book is a treasure trove and a definite keeper for your already-sagging bookshelf. It belongs in every home, stored somewhere at eye-level height for easy reach again and again. I find myself returning to it regularly to guide our family on taking a little extra care when shopping for our meat, or to add depth and value to my cooking by making my own glorious stocks and more.
As Andy says on page 17, this is exactly what he’d hoped for. He intended this to be a go-to workbook for cooks wanting to change the way they think about, prepare and enjoy meat in their meals:
I have the hope that this book will be dirty one day.
Worn down by you.
I want the pages to be frayed and covered in fat.
Maybe there is some spilled wine that you tried to wipe off.
Greasy thumbprints would be good.
In other words, I hope this book has been used.
My greatest hope though is that this page will be the dirtiest of all - because it is the most important.
Meat Manifesto’s tales of authentic food prepared well takes my mind back to the days of going to the local butcher shop and having a conversation about what cut I needed for dinner. We’d chat through all the details and courses, list how many guests we’d be hosting, and work out how many grams we’d need for the number of guests. And in those days, they’d prepare thicker slices for men and slightly thinner for women. I trusted my butcher as my kitchen partner and he never let me down. Andy’s book brings the butcher back into the spotlight in our modern world and highlights the valuable craft that has been sorely missed.
The book goes on to share where Fenner’s get their meat from, the secrets of ‘spider steaks’, how to butcher your own meat, how to make sausages and boerewors, and a walkthrough of exactly what knives and equipment you’ll need to get to work.
With true sustainability in mind, Meat Manifesto leaves nothing out by giving you ways to use all parts of the animals we eat. You’ll be taken on a tour of cuts and offerings you might not have considered before, showing you how to use snouts, tails, cheeks, and all the bits that might not sound so nice but can be wonderful, meltingly-moist, tender and satisfying.
In the end, the meat we get to eat in new ways and with new recipes is what proves the point of the book: both proper and delicious. For me, it’s about seasonality. Winter is all the long and slow cuts like brisket, lamb curries, shin soups, and even tomato bredies. In summer, we bring out the braai with all the sausages, chops and steaks. In spring, it’s tender veal schnitzels, chicken piccata and lamb racks. And autumn is the best time of the year for all the little sweet bits and pieces that make cooler days a magic time of year.
Frankie Fenner’s Meat Manifesto is a very important and beautifully written book that you’ll devour with delight. It’s a fountain of knowledge, brimming with great recipes and gorgeous photography, and ultimately nothing less than a modern meat bible made for people who love good food.