Have you ever wondered how we humans managed to survive before boxed breakfast cereal or skinless, boneless chicken breasts neatly packed in styrofoam and plastic wrap? Or have you ever taken a walk in the woods, or along a stream and questioned what around you might be edible?
If so, you should get to know Hank Shaw. Or pick up a copy of his new book Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. More than a cookbook, though there are plenty of recipes, and more than a memoir, though the book is filled with personal stories, Hunt, Gather, Cook is an introduction to a different way of “doing” food. Hank Shaw grows, forages, hunts, or fishes almost all of his food. Remember that old Grape Nuts commercial with Euell Gibbons? (“Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.”) Fast forward 40 years and you have Hank, stalking the wild world around him, foraging for wild greens, hunting rabbits, and digging for clams. Oh yes, and like Euell, eating parts of pine trees (pine nuts)!
Some people hunt, some people fish, some people forage, some people are gourmet cooks. Most people don’t do all of these things, but Hank does. It’s his life passion. If you are a regular reader of Simply Recipes you will be well familiar with Hank as a frequent contributor to this site. For the last year, and much of the time while Hank has been working on his book, we have been cooking together once or twice a week. In addition to cooking we will often take foraging expeditions, either to parks for olives or to the American River for blackberries and elderflowers. This is one of the reasons it’s such a delight to see Hank’s passion put into print. I’ve been inspired by Hank since the moment I met him several years ago. Here’s a guy who can make anything. And if you are ever stuck on a deserted isle, Hank is the one you want with you. Give him a weedy, empty lot and he can prepare a gourmet feast with what he finds.
Rugosa rose hips
The book is divided into three main sections – foraging, fishing and hunting. While I don’t think it’s possible for one book to teach you everything you need to know to become an expert in any of these areas, in this book you will find basic primers on most of the things you will need to get started. Hunting not your thing? Stick with the section on foraging. Hank will teach you how to make ice cream from rose petals, and homemade root beer from sassafras roots and bark. There is even an entire chapter on making homemade wine from flowers and fruit.
Interested in hunting but haven’t the faintest idea on how to get started? Hank takes you through the steps, whether it’s pheasants, ducks, rabbits or wild boar. Hank even includes hunting squirrel, which is something my dad did as a kid growing up in Minnesota. At the end of each chapter are gourmet recipes. Given that you’ve worked so hard to secure your game, fish, or wild greens, why not cook them as well as you can?
Hank’s dandelion risotto
What I love about this book is that even if you never intend to get up before dawn, throw on waders and sit in a duck blind for hours in the bone-chilling cold, or hike for hours and shoot and gut a deer, or dig for clams with your toes at low tide, if you have any interest in food, you will find inspiration in this book. Most of the recipes can be made with simple substitutions with ingredients you can find at your local market. It’s past the season for fresh nettles around here, but I made Hank’s wild greens risotto with dandelion greens I bought from Whole Foods. It was the first time I had actually cooked with dandelion greens, even though my mom has been picking these weeds from the yard and putting them in our soups for years. Wonderful.
Thank you Hank for finally putting to print, what we your friends have been inspired by all these years. Congratulations!
New York Times review of Hunt, Gather, Cook – and of other cookbooks released for the summer, by Sam Sifton
LA Weekly book review – by Jenn Garbee
Review by Al Cambronne in Love, Obsession, and Consequences on a Changing American Landscape
Review by Sean Timberlake on Punk Domestics
Serious Reads, Hunt Gather Cook review from Serious Eats
Hunt, Gather, Cook – a review by Rebecca Tolley-Stokes of Potlikkery