A book on meat; tomatoes are back

A new kind of book is finding its way onto overstocked cookbook shelves these days, combining recipes with essays and practical cooking advice with philosophy. The writing is personal, anecdotal and unabashedly partisan. These books come out of the environmental movement but their authors have real culinary expertise. They share the belief that knowing where and how your food is raised makes for a healthier planet and healthier individuals. “The River Cottage Meat Book” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Ten Speed Press, $40), a massive volume with glossy pages and evocative natural photographs, is a case in point. It’s a handbook for both home and restaurant cooks as well as a manifesto on the importance of knowing the provenance of the meat and poultry we eat. What makes this cookbook such juicy reading is its scope — huge and meandering — leaving no part of any animal unexplored. The voice is quixotic, charming and persuasive. Even if you skip the first 200 pages on “Understanding Meat,” you’ll still find the next 300 pages on “Cooking Meat,” a chapter for each technique, invaluable.

TOMATOES ARE BACK IN TOWN

Local tomatoes have finally reached independent food stores and farmers markets. Cherry tomatoes in all colors, shapes and sizes arrived first; then, similarly varied big tomatoes. Combined they make the most gorgeous salads. Assemble them at home or treat yourself to Bix’s organic heirloom tomato cart, wheeled right to your table.

Bix, 56 Gold St. San Francisco; www.bixrestaurant.com

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