Friday, June 03, 2011

Finding the Forgotten Feast

Hank Shaw, in his new book Hunt Gather Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast has a devious agenda. His aim is to get you to open your eyes and not just look at, but actually see the world around you. And the bastard actually succeeded, at least with this reader.

I took the brand new book to the beach with me, thinking I'd scan a few chapters and write about it. The house we'd rented for the weekend was a block or so off the beach, a short walk that took me past an overgrown yard on one side and a wetland on the other.

After reading the first couple of chapters, my single-minded march to the beach turned into a completely different experience. I slowed down and started scanning those patches of green with different eyes, wondering what that blooming shrub might be, whether its bell-shaped blossoms would turn into berries in the next few weeks and if they might be edible. What would I make with them?

At this point I have to interrupt this review to tell you that I know Hank personally. He's the younger brother of my friend Loo, who mentioned a few years ago that her brother, a newspaper reporter by trade, had started a food blog called Hunter Angler Gardener Cook about hunting and foraging around his home in Northern California. On a trip through the area, Dave and I stopped and had lunch with him at a restaurant near the capitol in Sacramento where he was reporting on some government meeting or other. We talked a little bit about blogging and writing, which was new to me at the time, but when the conversation turned to food it was obvious that this guy had a huge passion for the subject.

The next time I saw him was up here in Portland, and we were passing by a vacant lot on our way to breakfast at Tasty n Sons on North Williams. Where I saw just a patch of urban decay, Hank was pointing out the mallow growing in cracks in the cement, and at least a dozen other greens starting to take over the broken ground.

And that's what this book, written in a very approachable, unintimidating style…he uses phrases like "Trippy" and "Holy tartness, Batman!"…does so successfully. Earnest, informative and chock full of recipes, it reminds readers that the world out there is a rich, abundant, tasty place, not something to be tamed or avoided or, even more pertinently, forgotten.

"We live in an edible world. It's all around us, if you look closely. You can see it in lawns and at the beach. It thrives along every river, on hillsides, and deep in swamps. You can even steal glimpses of it growing between the cracks of abandoned parking lots and on untended mounds of earth forgotten long ago by construction crews. Nature's garden grows, yes, but it also flies through the air, runs through the brush, an swims through the water."
- Hank Shaw, "Hunt, Gather, Cook"

Photos by Holly A. Heyser for Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.


Unknown said...

My favorite new cookbook! I just foraged some "weeds" for dinner last night.

Well written and bravo!

Kathleen Bauer said...

I may be prejudiced, but it's a really awesome book. Anything that can get through my thick skull would have to be!

trainer, crafter, kristin said...

Cool! We have edible plant books-the plants, not the books-but this may be the one to get me to try something other than dandelion greens from our yard. He should do tours!