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Killing It: An Education

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A wayward young woman abandons her magazine career to learn the old ways of butchery and discover what it means to take life into her own hands Camas Davis was at an unhappy crossroads. A longtime magazine writer and editor in the food world, she'd returned to her home state of Oregon with her boyfriend from New York City to take an appealing job at a Portland lifestyle mag A wayward young woman abandons her magazine career to learn the old ways of butchery and discover what it means to take life into her own hands Camas Davis was at an unhappy crossroads. A longtime magazine writer and editor in the food world, she'd returned to her home state of Oregon with her boyfriend from New York City to take an appealing job at a Portland lifestyle magazine. But neither job nor boyfriend delivered on her dreams, and in the span of a year, Davis was unemployed, on her own, with nothing to fall back on. Disillusioned by the years she'd spent mediating the lives of others for a living, she had no idea what to do next. She did know one thing: She no longer wanted to write about the real thing; she wanted to be the real thing. So when a friend told her about Kate Hill, an American woman living in Gascony, France who ran a cooking school and took in strays in exchange for painting fences and making beds, it sounded like just what she needed. She discovered a forgotten credit card that had just enough credit on it to buy a plane ticket and took it as kismet. Upon her arrival, Kate introduced her to the Chapolard brothers, a family of Gascon pig farmers and butchers, who were willing to take Camas under their wing, inviting her to work alongside them in their slaughterhouse and cutting room. In the process, the Chapolards inducted her into their way of life, which prizes pleasure, compassion, community, and authenticity above all else. So begins Camas Davis's funny, heartfelt, searching memoir of her unexpected journey to become a successful and enlightened butcher. It's a story that takes her from an eye-opening stint in rural France where deep artisanal craft and whole animal gastronomy thrives despite the rise of mass scale agribusiness, back to a Portland in the throes of a food revolution, where it suddenly seems possible to translate much of this old-world craft into a new world setting. Camas faces hardships and heartaches along the way, but in the end, Killing It is about what it means to pursue the real thing and to dedicate your life to it.


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A wayward young woman abandons her magazine career to learn the old ways of butchery and discover what it means to take life into her own hands Camas Davis was at an unhappy crossroads. A longtime magazine writer and editor in the food world, she'd returned to her home state of Oregon with her boyfriend from New York City to take an appealing job at a Portland lifestyle mag A wayward young woman abandons her magazine career to learn the old ways of butchery and discover what it means to take life into her own hands Camas Davis was at an unhappy crossroads. A longtime magazine writer and editor in the food world, she'd returned to her home state of Oregon with her boyfriend from New York City to take an appealing job at a Portland lifestyle magazine. But neither job nor boyfriend delivered on her dreams, and in the span of a year, Davis was unemployed, on her own, with nothing to fall back on. Disillusioned by the years she'd spent mediating the lives of others for a living, she had no idea what to do next. She did know one thing: She no longer wanted to write about the real thing; she wanted to be the real thing. So when a friend told her about Kate Hill, an American woman living in Gascony, France who ran a cooking school and took in strays in exchange for painting fences and making beds, it sounded like just what she needed. She discovered a forgotten credit card that had just enough credit on it to buy a plane ticket and took it as kismet. Upon her arrival, Kate introduced her to the Chapolard brothers, a family of Gascon pig farmers and butchers, who were willing to take Camas under their wing, inviting her to work alongside them in their slaughterhouse and cutting room. In the process, the Chapolards inducted her into their way of life, which prizes pleasure, compassion, community, and authenticity above all else. So begins Camas Davis's funny, heartfelt, searching memoir of her unexpected journey to become a successful and enlightened butcher. It's a story that takes her from an eye-opening stint in rural France where deep artisanal craft and whole animal gastronomy thrives despite the rise of mass scale agribusiness, back to a Portland in the throes of a food revolution, where it suddenly seems possible to translate much of this old-world craft into a new world setting. Camas faces hardships and heartaches along the way, but in the end, Killing It is about what it means to pursue the real thing and to dedicate your life to it.

30 review for Killing It: An Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rae DelBianco

    A transparent, honest, selfless evaluation of an issue most every modern American faces— what have we lost by making life easier? And in particular, what have we lost by releasing ourselves from responsibility and reverence toward where our food comes from? As a former teenage cattle rancher, Davis asks all the questions I'd locked up in my heart as a kid, and addresses them with intellectual curiosity, respect, and empathy, without pretending to know all the answers. I highly, highly recommend A transparent, honest, selfless evaluation of an issue most every modern American faces— what have we lost by making life easier? And in particular, what have we lost by releasing ourselves from responsibility and reverence toward where our food comes from? As a former teenage cattle rancher, Davis asks all the questions I'd locked up in my heart as a kid, and addresses them with intellectual curiosity, respect, and empathy, without pretending to know all the answers. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone seeking more understanding and involvement in the eating in our daily lives. It's a book that makes you think, and will stay with you long after you've finished the last page.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hayli

    '"I also believe if every slaughterhouse and farm and butcher shop were made of glass, we'd have a very different system of meat production.'" 3 stars. This book was ok, nothing wrong or problematic, but not something I would normally read. I loved the parts of the book that were set in Gascony. Learning about the whole culture of slaughtering and eating meat in France was so fascinating. This book makes me want to travel to France to experience exactly what the writer did. I thought the inclusion '"I also believe if every slaughterhouse and farm and butcher shop were made of glass, we'd have a very different system of meat production.'" 3 stars. This book was ok, nothing wrong or problematic, but not something I would normally read. I loved the parts of the book that were set in Gascony. Learning about the whole culture of slaughtering and eating meat in France was so fascinating. This book makes me want to travel to France to experience exactly what the writer did. I thought the inclusion of some of the discussions raised around feminism and eating meat were also interesting. I don't think I understood the argument entirely, but that was not what the focus of the book was at all. I loved how Davis writes about her frustrations with being a woman in this industry and how she was such a spectacle for being not just a female butcher, but a pretty, female butcher. And the perceptions and images of butchery in America versus what she experienced in France. After she came back from her trip to Gascony was where I lost my interest. I read Eating Animals earlier this year which absolutely astounded me with how insightful it was about the meat industry in America and I did not get the same feeling from this book at all. Mainly because this is not a book about the horrors of the meat industry but more the choices people can make to try source and eat meat more ethically.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    EAT, PRAY, LOVE, only this time 1) in France 2) with meat, and (3) an extra helping of self-absorption.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy Morgan

    Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Camas Davis is a magazine writer who just got fired from her job, left her long time boyfriend and then moved in with a new boyfriend who she immediately tells she is going to France to learn to be a butcher. Sounds crazy right? I thought so until I read her story. This book was incredibly fascinating and made me really think about where my food comes from and where I want it to come from in the future. Camas's entire journey into the world of Thank you Edelweiss for my review copy of this book. Camas Davis is a magazine writer who just got fired from her job, left her long time boyfriend and then moved in with a new boyfriend who she immediately tells she is going to France to learn to be a butcher. Sounds crazy right? I thought so until I read her story. This book was incredibly fascinating and made me really think about where my food comes from and where I want it to come from in the future. Camas's entire journey into the world of butchering was so enlightening and I was capitvated throughout the whole story. This book made me think about so many things on so many levels. Everyone should definitely read it!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrienne

    I was both aghast and tantalized with how the author pulled off describing her experience in butchery and sharing her views about meat processing and meat consumption. This book transformed me - I’m still a meat eater but it has made me curious about the meat handling process and it has made me care about where my food comes from. Review copy provided by the publisher.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    I devoured this book very quickly, mostly because I often said I wanted to quite my job, work with my hands, and become a butcher. Obviously that hasn't happened yet so this book was the next best thing. Interesting insights on different cultures and whole animal butchery and the arguments about whether to eat meat or not, all good stuff. Kept me entertained from beginning to end. It very much speaks to a city reader, growing up near farms and rural landscapes I know where you can purchase a who I devoured this book very quickly, mostly because I often said I wanted to quite my job, work with my hands, and become a butcher. Obviously that hasn't happened yet so this book was the next best thing. Interesting insights on different cultures and whole animal butchery and the arguments about whether to eat meat or not, all good stuff. Kept me entertained from beginning to end. It very much speaks to a city reader, growing up near farms and rural landscapes I know where you can purchase a whole animal and get it butchered to your liking. One interesting point she made was how many people don't eat head cheese, gizzards and other non-conventional animals parts anymore, and it made me think about how my grandparents DID make head cheese and eat liver or gizzards, and frankly I'm a little sad I had shown no interest in trying or gleaning those recipes that are now gone with them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Renae

    3 stars - but only b/c the author went into French cuisine, culinary techniques, etc. This book was Eat Pray Love meets Julia & Julia with one of the most stunning heaping's of self-absorbed "humbled bragging" ever imagined. I found myself skipping over the author talking about how brave she was, her detailed conversations on how she had no idea if she would write a book ( which appears to have been planned the entire time) and how she embraced people thinking she was crazy b/c deep down she 3 stars - but only b/c the author went into French cuisine, culinary techniques, etc. This book was Eat Pray Love meets Julia & Julia with one of the most stunning heaping's of self-absorbed "humbled bragging" ever imagined. I found myself skipping over the author talking about how brave she was, her detailed conversations on how she had no idea if she would write a book ( which appears to have been planned the entire time) and how she embraced people thinking she was crazy b/c deep down she knows how awesome she is and the author wants you to know how awesome she is too damn it!! If you enjoy reading about food, where your food comes from and classic techniques regarding all things food related there are parts of this book you will enjoy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mollie

    Formidable! What an awesome read! Fascinating and sincere, Camas Davis will make you question where our meat comes from and, at the same time, make you want to learn how to butcher a pigs head and make pate de tete. Read this book as soon as you can get your hands on it. You will not be disappointed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Judd

    I don't know why but the whole time I read this book I imagined the author as Miranda from Sex and the City. I listened to her interview on Fresh Air and wanted to read the book, partly for the memoir and partly for what I imagined would be a thoughtful and elevated conversation about eating meat and the ethics of eating meat. The book is not as elevated as the interview makes it sound. Do not expect a heavy philosophical or even extensive, nuanced discussion of the ethics of eating meat. The et I don't know why but the whole time I read this book I imagined the author as Miranda from Sex and the City. I listened to her interview on Fresh Air and wanted to read the book, partly for the memoir and partly for what I imagined would be a thoughtful and elevated conversation about eating meat and the ethics of eating meat. The book is not as elevated as the interview makes it sound. Do not expect a heavy philosophical or even extensive, nuanced discussion of the ethics of eating meat. The ethics of eating meat and problems with eating meat (factory farming, etc.) are mentioned in almost every chapter but she tends to repeat the same five or six lines: "it's different when you have to confront the animal . . . there's no easy answer . . . i try to be respectful . . . " In any case, the memoir part of the book is light and fun with lots of dialogue and funny, interesting episodes. To be honest, I more enjoyed the second half of the book when she returns to Portland and has to contend with the reality of doing something with her French sojourn. The French sojourn is interesting and fun to read but she writes about it as if she ran away to France for 10 years when in reality it was like 7 weeks... please. The travel part of the book feels a little too Elizabeth Gilbert-y for me, but, like I said, I enjoyed it. The only real issue I had with the book was this: I know that books, especially memoirs, are by nature therapeutic and help people process, make sense of, organize, and give a narrative shape to the mundane and the traumatic events of their lives. I get that. A reader should expect some degree of that. But the book has a tendency to default into what often sounds like the author on the therapist's couch trying to explain away her personality neuroses, identity crisis, and bad choices (using people, being manipulative, questioning her authenticity, the purity of her motives and intentions, feeling unsure of who she is, how others perceive her, etc.). It got to be a bit too much. I felt like she maybe needed to offload some of that in an actual therapy session rather than pass that burden on to the reader. It's not that kind of book, okay? We didn't necessarily sign up for that. The author strikes me as very Gen-Xer--the type of Gen-Xer who maybe was born a little too soon to feel more at home as a millennial, but nonetheless can't escape the Gen-Xer qualities of her nature and personality. That's not a judgement good or bad. It's just an impression. In any case, I enjoyed the book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    M

    "It seemed to be, standing there with two halves of a pig brain cupped in my palm, that we are often terrible at this kind of first rate intelligence, that, in fact, so much of what we do is in the service of keeping opposing ideas at bay inside ourselves. Isn't this what we're doing when we eat meat without taking part in the process that brings it to our tables, without ever being required to stare back at the animal that made the meat possible? Did we not grow our industrial food complex prec "It seemed to be, standing there with two halves of a pig brain cupped in my palm, that we are often terrible at this kind of first rate intelligence, that, in fact, so much of what we do is in the service of keeping opposing ideas at bay inside ourselves. Isn't this what we're doing when we eat meat without taking part in the process that brings it to our tables, without ever being required to stare back at the animal that made the meat possible? Did we not grow our industrial food complex precisely so that we didn't have to simultaneously become fond of our pig and be glad to salt it too?" Fired from a career as a magazine editor in New York City, Camas Davis picked up and left the big city for a simpler life in her hometown near Portland, Oregon. Feeling lost, she left Oregon for an unexpected stay in Gascony, France, where a woman who ran a cooking school took her in, and introduced her to a family of pig butchers and farmers. After learning about the ethical farming and slaughter of animals raised for food, Camas started the "Portland Meat Collective", a meat education school where people come together to learn, in person, how a farmer/butcher raises and kills an animal ethically and humanely. This book is not for the faint of heart; Camas details how a pig is electrocuted by using headphones, hung upside down, and ultimately killed and bled to death. More importantly, she talks about the horrors of factory farming, how stress from living in cramped areas with other animals leads to adrenaline/lactic acid being released in their systems - which leads to watery muscles, which we, as humans, consume at the end of the day. The dissociation that exists between our factory-farmed meat, and how an animal is raised and killed/butchered in America is terrifying. Although it was hard to read, this book really changed how I think about any of the meat I consume. I also enjoyed reading about the relationships Camas formed during her journey. Her lost loves, and the loves she formed along the way. A stunning book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jay bookworm

    I am sending a huge thank you to the publisher, Penguin, as well as Goodreads for offering this giveaway. This book absolutely blew me away. The author lost her job, had a dream and eventually made it happen. Her dream? To become a butcher. Luckily, her previous job gave her a network to be able to explore the world of whole animal butchering and the people that she meets along the way teach her many things. The writing is amazing, poetic, romantic (yes, the way she talks about food and animals I am sending a huge thank you to the publisher, Penguin, as well as Goodreads for offering this giveaway. This book absolutely blew me away. The author lost her job, had a dream and eventually made it happen. Her dream? To become a butcher. Luckily, her previous job gave her a network to be able to explore the world of whole animal butchering and the people that she meets along the way teach her many things. The writing is amazing, poetic, romantic (yes, the way she talks about food and animals and her journey among farmers and foodies is totally romantic) and entrancing. I could not put this book down. When she was reflective, self-doubting and uncertain, so was I. This book made me want to quit my job and explore a whole other world, but I think I would chase cheese and wine. Don’t get me wrong, I have a whole list of new charcuterie to try, but not a dream to be a lady poet butcher. Great job Camas!!!

  12. 4 out of 5

    CC

    DNF. Non-fiction. A woman from Oregon, disheartened after losing her magazine job, moves to France on a whim to study the art of butchering. I gave it a hundred pages and found I didn't want to get back to it, so I'll let this one go. I'm usually eager to read non-fiction set in France, so that and the book's awesome cover were the initial appeal. However, I simply found this too self-indulgent. I knew I was in trouble when, by page 11, she mentioned her airplane seatmate exclaimed she was "bea DNF. Non-fiction. A woman from Oregon, disheartened after losing her magazine job, moves to France on a whim to study the art of butchering. I gave it a hundred pages and found I didn't want to get back to it, so I'll let this one go. I'm usually eager to read non-fiction set in France, so that and the book's awesome cover were the initial appeal. However, I simply found this too self-indulgent. I knew I was in trouble when, by page 11, she mentioned her airplane seatmate exclaimed she was "beautiful," and then went on to say that "a different woman would've found that flattering, but she did not." Well, sure you did, you went to all the trouble to include it the book, for pete's sake. 3 stars for that cover, though. :) (Having awful luck with books lately -- this is the fifth book in a row I haven't finished for lack of interest. Ugh.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Talk about taking a sideways turn in your life! Davis actually did what a lot of us might occasionally think about- take off for France. I have to admit being a butcher is not high on my personal list of life goals but more power to her for doing it. This is a well written memoir that should not be dismissed as an "eat, pray, love" competitor. Davis has a lot to say about the culture of meat (I know!), feminism, how women are treated in what remains a male dominated area, and herself. Some of th Talk about taking a sideways turn in your life! Davis actually did what a lot of us might occasionally think about- take off for France. I have to admit being a butcher is not high on my personal list of life goals but more power to her for doing it. This is a well written memoir that should not be dismissed as an "eat, pray, love" competitor. Davis has a lot to say about the culture of meat (I know!), feminism, how women are treated in what remains a male dominated area, and herself. Some of the self examination and some of the details of butchery might be a bit much but that's what the memoir is about. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. This is informative and entertaining.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I really enjoyed this book! Being an animal science major I’ve taken a meat class and we had to observe and help with a pig, cow, and lamb slaughter. The details in the book are spot on and true. It reminded me to respect where our food comes from and that it can be humanely done!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer E Volem

    A thoughtful consideration of the carnivorous diet approached by a curious mind, "Killing It" takes the reader along on the author's unexpected journey with honesty and wit.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kathy (Bermudaonion)

    3.75 stars

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Interlicchia

    A little too much personal life for my liking, but it is to be expected from a memoir.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Plavins

    I thought this interesting but a little too graphic for my liking. In addition I found her philosophizing tiresome

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bekah

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen Kumaki

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tahni

    I am one of the American vegetarians Camas describes, who would never touch head cheese. I couldn't stomach this fantastically written book. Highly recommend for non-herbivores.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Demetrius Puckett

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Very much interested in reading this food memoir from an Oregon author, but the font in the print version is so tiny I'm going to have to wait and get the e-book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  25. 4 out of 5

    chirantha

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

  27. 5 out of 5

    Madonna Craddock

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marcia Wilburn

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jayne Gilmer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

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