Upton Sinclair updated for the end of the millenium.
Jane Takagi-Little gets a job -- a dream job as she has no other and needs money -- to film a weekly series for Japanese television called "My American Wife." The show is designed to showcase different beef-based recipes in order to promote beef consumption in Japan. Jane meets many interesting families, eats some rather inspired beef-based dishes (beef fudge, for instance), and learns that there is more to the cow than just the cow. Cut to Tokyo where Akiko Ueno struggles through the dull misery of life with her brutish husband, who happens to be in charge of the show's advertising. After seeing one of Jane's subversive episodes about a vegetarian lesbian couple, Akiko gets in touch and the two women plot to expose the meat industry's hazardous practices.
What Jane ends up discovering is that not much has changed since Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle. Chemicals (such as DES, which really did cause a lot of health problems for mothers and infants in the 50s) and inhumane practices (you'll never believe what some of these cows are fed for dinner each night) are still in effect, and these result in meat that may not be as good for you as the FDA would like you to believe. The meat industry is still a market where more is better, no matter how you have to get it. Is it any wonder that people are getting sick?
This is the sort of book that shakes you and makes you wonder exactly how much of this is true and how much is from the imagination of Ruth Ozeki. Romance, humor, intrigue, and even a message--My Year of Meats has it all. You will also be unable to watch the evening newscast without wondering what they aren't telling you.
I think I'll stick to salad for a while.