"Everything old is new again" is a phrase that pretty well describes the current popularity of foraging. Eating local, organic, and seasonal is a default setting for many people, and foraging--as suggested by author Hank Shaw--is the next frontier beyond farmers' markets and grass-fed meats.
Shaw is a journalist and former restaurant cook. His popular blog, Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook, chronicles his quest for "honest food" and to find "those meats and veggies that people don't eat much any more, like pigeons or shad or cardoon." In Hunt, Gather, Cook, Shaw shares tales of his adventures alongside advice for beginning foragers and recipes for everything from wild-boar sausages to elderberry liqueur and nettle risotto.
Hunt, Gather, Cook is divided into three parts: Foraging, Fishing, and Hunting. Within each part, Shaw shares his discoveries and processes for turning things like bitter acorns into delicious morsels. Tips are woven into stories about killing his first deer, catching eels, and gathering clams. The hunting section includes more in-depth information about equipment and advice on gutting, cleaning, and storing fresh meat.
Recipes include short and simple preparations such as clam chowder and venison medallions, and more involved dishes like Provençal fish bisque. There are also several dozen tips and tricks for making things like wine from various fruits and flowers, or sausages from different wild game. And then there are the recipes for squirrel--buttermilk fried squirrel and braised squirrel. Once skinned, they actually look just like rabbits. Which kind of look like chicken. OK--not really. Thankfully, there are no graphic photos in the hunting chapter.
In other parts of the book, I wish there were more photos, but in the appendix, Shaw recommends several field guides and other resources for beginning foragers. The lack of photos is made up for in the engaging narrative at the beginning of each chapter and most recipes. Some of the fish and other wild foods in Hunt, Gather, Cook are not native to the West Coast, so unless you travel across the country often, you won't find them. Others, like blackberries, nettles, crab, game birds, elk, and deer, are abundant in the Pacific Northwest and already popular for local foragers.
Read Part II of this week's Cooking the Books and a recipe from Hunt, Gather, Cook.
Hank Shaw will be in Seattle later this month to promote Hunt, Gather, Cook. On July 28 at 6 p.m., there is a book signing at Wine World, with chef Robin Leventhal making appetizers inspired by the book. The event is hosted by Readers to Eaters and Slow Food Seattle. Tickets available at brownpapertickets.com.
On Friday, July 29, join Shaw and local author Langdon Cook (Fat of the Land) for a seaside clamming and foraging walk. Cost is $75 and includes signed copies of each author's book. Meet at 10:30 a.m. in the South Sound. More details and tickets on Cook's website.
On Sunday, July 31, enjoy a nine-course dinner at The Herbfarm with Shaw at a special table for eight. The dinner begins at 4:30 p.m., costs $195 plus tax & service, and includes an autographed copy of the book. Call 425-485-5300 to reserve.