Livin’ off the land
Sacramento-area blogger and wild-forager Hank Shaw pens first book
Orangevale resident Hank Shaw writes the award-winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (at www.honest-food.net) and recently published his first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. He’s on the first leg of his book tour recently returning to Northern California from the East Coast. I talked to him about the new book, foraging and inspiring readers to source their own eats.
What have you foraged on your book tour so far? What will you be looking forward to foraging or fishing when you return to Sacramento?
I’ve caught redfish and sea trout in the bayous of Louisiana, amberjack and grouper off the coast of Florida, and in Alabama I foraged for wild ginseng and ginger, hickory, wild mint, wild onions, honeysuckle and lots of other things. It’s been a blast. Who knows when I will get a chance to forage at home again. But I am looking forward to catching some salmon in the Pacific this June.
What was the main challenge in translating your blog writing into a book?
The book is almost completely original. Very little of it has appeared in the blog, so there was not that much translation needed. I chose chapter subjects that were both balanced geographically and all worthy of someone’s effort to go out and seek; there are no strict “survival foods” in here—all are world-class cooking ingredients. While I live in California, this is not a California-centric book. I worked hard to make sure it was not.
I noticed that most of the recipes seem to have a “mainstream” ingredient substitution for the foraged or hunted ingredient. Was that at your suggestion or the publishers?
My suggestion. I want people to actually make these recipes. I specifically included dishes that were not overly “cheffy” for that reason. Including domestic substitutions is vital for those who don’t want to buy ranched game or hunt it themselves. Yes, there are several recipes that will be wildly different without the wild ingredient. Eels, squirrels, prickly pears and acorns are some things that really don’t have a domestic substitute.
You thanked your parents in the book for showing you the way. Did they do this kind of hunter-gatherer thing when you were growing up?
Not hunting. But both my parents fished, and my mum taught me how to forage from the time I could walk. She has been an inspiration for a long, long time. We spent long summer vacations on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, and I learned all the wild plants and animals of that place. It is still my Shangri-La.
What has been the most satisfying reaction you’ve gotten to your book so far?
I’ve received a few emails from people who read the foreword and the “Why Fish?” and “Why Hunt?” sections, who have told me that they finally understand the desire to hunt and fish after reading them. Even better? They say that they want to start hunting and fishing themselves now, too. That is why I wrote this book, and to see what I had hoped might possibly happen actually turn into reality has been deeply satisfying.