[Book Review] It's only slow food until you try and eat it : Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter Gatherer

It's only slow food until you try and eat it : Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter Gatherer / Bill Heavy (Grove/Atlantic, Powell's Books)
Longtime Field & Stream contributor Bill Heavey saw early on that while the outdoors world was full of experts, “the other end of the skill spectrum was wide open,” and he has become the magazine’s most popular voice by writing for sportsmen with more enthusiasm than skill. In his first full-length book, Heavey chronicles his attempts to “eat wild,” trying to see how much of his own food he could hunt, fish, grow, and forage.

But Heavey is not your typical hunter-gatherer. Living inside the D.C. Beltway, and a single dad to a twelve-year-old daughter who at one point declares, “I hate nature food!”, he’s almost completely ignorant of gardening and foraging. Mesmerized by the power of a rototiller, Heavey tears up twice as much of his backyard as he intended. Incensed at the squirrels destroying his tomatoes, he is driven to rodent murder.

Along the way, Heavey is guided by a number of unlikely teachers, from Paula, the eccentric whose under-the-table bait business is so big that she’s known as “the Pablo Escobar of herring,” to Hue, an ex-military survival instructor and foraging expert with a mystical side, and Michelle, an attractive single mom who is unselfconsciously devoted to eating locally. He travels to Louisiana to go frog “grabbing” with a Cajun alligator-skinner, hunts for caribou on the Alaskan tundra with Gwich’in Indians, and surf casts with an urban forager in San Francisco. To the delight of his readers and to his daughter’s intense embarrassment, he also suffers blood loss, humiliation, and learns, as he puts it, that “‘edible’ is not to be confused with ‘tasty.’”
In It's only slow food Heavey takes us along a journey of discovering what's in his own backyard, across the United States, and of growing one's own family in a witty and self-deprecating tale.

I won't lie, I have a soft spot for outdoors misadventure stories.  They often serve the dual purposes of education and entertainment.  And Bill Heavey has made a sucessful career out of telling exactly this type of story.

Perhaps the most enlightening part of this book for me was not that edibles are all around us (I've been using that trick to wierd out people for some 15 years), but instead bringing up drastically different ways of life encountered in his travels.  After reading this book I couldn't help but feel that we take so much for granted as necessary.  Maybe necessary for "mainstream" lifestyles, but far from necessary for a productive life.


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