Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, makes a tour stop at the Black Cat Farm Table Bistro in Boulder, Colorado on Tuesday, November 1 to sign books and help guests rediscover that which has been forgotten through a prix fixe feast featuring foraged foods and flavors.
Chef Eric Skokan presents the menu, which is slated to include risotto with porcini and second cutting hay, pickled mallow, campfire trout, spruce, pine nut aioli, crispy thistle, Colorado lamb (not to be confused with the next menu item) lamb’s quarters, burdock root gratin, and pickled rose hips, with maple and walnut cake, black walnut ice cream, and nocino for dessert. Any of the non-foraged ingredients are deeply local, with 80% of the restaurant’s usual provisions coming from their 70-acre Black Cat Farm.
Hunt, Gather, Cook
Shaw’s first book after departing a career in political journalism, Hunt, Gather, Cook synthesizes the author’s lifelong interest in wild plants, his former career as a chef, and his love for fresh and saltwater fare along with a newfound interest in hunting “for food and fulfillment,” which he presents in an enjoyable and accessible format for would-be wild food fans. The book includes food gathering, processing, and preparation instructions along with recipes geared towards adventurous as well as distinguished palettes. Stories of the author’s own experiences rediscovering the world of wild food illuminate the content.
Published in May of 2011 by Rodale Books, Hunt, Gather, Cook is contained within an artistically appointed, black and white, hardcover book, making it not only an interesting read but also an attractive volume for display. (Only one other wild edible book in my collection is hardcover, incidentally—and that is 1970’s wild food cookbook.) Shaw also maintains an award-winning blog at www.honest-food.net.
I skipped around as I read Hunt, Gather, Cook, getting sucked into his entries on some of my old east coast favorites like sassafras and day lily. I can’t wait to try pickled sea beans, “Homemade Root Beer Syrup” made from sassafras roots despite USDA warnings (see Shaw’s argument on that one), and “Madrone Bark Tea Eggs.”
The clamming and fishing part struck a chord with me too, as I am from a family of clammers and fishers. If there were a wild food book to recommend to my angling dad or hunting brother-in-law (if only to capitalize on their other interests to convince them of the joys of wild plant forage), this book is probably it.
The plant section, “Foraging from Coast to Coast,” is 75 pages long, divided into chapters on wild greens, fruits and berries, seaside vegetables, wines, and acorns—which are of course my most recent obsession. It’s a nice overview of things to forage and how to use them. Not to be mistaken for an identification guide, Hunt, Gather, Cook is instead a narrative account of the California-based author’s experiences with North American flora and fauna, both in the field and in the kitchen. I particularly love how Hank Shaw is always processing wild food during football games. (Whereas I have lately taken to removing the testas from acorn meats over reruns of Sex and the City.)
Anyway, call the Black Cat in Boulder for reservations (303.444.5500; www.blackcatboulder.com) if interested in Tuesday’s dinner; rolling seatings beginning at 5:30. The four course meal costs $65 (+$25 optional wine flight) and includes a signed copy of Hunt, Gather, Cook.
Will I be there? No, sadly, I have to work. But I imagine it will be better than my wildest wild food dreams.
NOTE: Here’s a link to an interview with Shaw in the Westword by Laura Shunk.