In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan endeavors to create a meal solely from food he can harvest with his own two hands. As part of this experiment, he goes out with a friend to hunt boar in the wilds of Sonoma County, forage wild mushrooms and stalk the wily abalone. For Pollan, it was a journey of discovery. For Hank Shaw, it's just another day at the office.
Hank, a regular contributor to Punk Domestics, pens the very successful blog Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook, which received James Beard nominations in 2009 and 2010. He's an avid outdoorsman, and with his past experience as both a line cook and reporter, brings a triple threat to the food world: A man who can hunt and forage his own food, make creative and compelling dishes from it, and then wrap it in eloquent prose.
The book is an extension of that concept, albeit more specific in focus. In "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast," Hank takes on three major topics -- foraging, fishing and hunting -- and breaks down what you need to know about each of them. Within each section, plants and animals are grouped into like subcategories, the hows and whys of finding them are explained, and each grouping is anchored with Hank's own recipes.
Hank's premise is simple: You'd have to try pretty hard to starve in nature. Food abounds in our very surroundings, even sometimes the most urban ones, and you simply need to be armed with the information necessary to see the bounty in front of you. Wild greens, succulent berries and even unlikely candidates such as acorns and daylilies are completely edible, with a little finesse.
The book is highly pragmatic, well positioned as a one-stop resource for the DIY foodist. But while it conveys a wealth of practical information, it is also thoroughly infused with Hank's indelible voice, affable and approachable, and never dry nor schoolmarmish.
While not absolutely comprehensive (conspicuously absent from the foraging section are mushrooms, a topic so broad and dangerous as to require extensive special training, and not for the amateur), it's an excellent starter kit for budding foragers and hunters, and a good companion for those with at least a little experience in the field -- literally. And I know I'll be referring to it time and time again.
I have one copy of Hank's marvelous "Hunt, Gather, Cook" to give to one lucky recipient. To qualify, simply leave a comment on this post describing an experience you've had foraging, fishing or hunting. (Be sure to enter your email so I know how to contact you if you win.) For a bonus entry, click to tweet this post. Entries will be open through midnight PDT on May 31. Go on, you know you want it.