Besides being a great cookbook, I think Hank Shaw’s “Hunt Gather Cook” makes for some great, enlightening dinner conversation with kids. The night I cooked Hank’s version of Crab Risotto for my family, I read them the information on the book jacket’s flap. It turns out, there were some terms that my boys were unfamiliar with.
When I asked them if they knew what an angler or a forager was, they didn’t know. My oldest thought a forager was “one of those people that faked the president’s signature.” When I read out loud about cooking snowshoe hares, my youngest made an awful face. He wanted to know if the “guy that wrote the book ate the hair out of people’s snow boots.” (I really hope he was just trying to get a laugh out of us with that one.)
One thing was clear: even though I take my boys to pick food on farms, grow food in my garden, and try to educate about them real food, there’s still a lot they don’t know. Not only is “Hunt Gather Cook” going to be a book I cook from, it’s going to be a book that my family and I learn from.
Earlier today, I brought you the first part of my interview with Hank Shaw. Here’s the remainder of the interview from the man who has a lot of great knowledge to pass on to all of us.
MNN: Even though I grew up around hunters, and I have a strong respect for hunting, I don't anticipate becoming a hunter. But, foraging is a skill I'd like to acquire. Where would you suggest that I start? I live in the Philadelphia suburbs (on the Jersey side).
Hank Shaw: I’d start with your yard. Learn all the plants that live in it, and I guarantee you many you never knew were edible. From there go to local parks. Look for unused places, not manicured ones, which will often have pesticides around. My local park has walnuts, a mulberry tree, a nice spruce (I eat the young tips in spring), several cherry plum trees and lots and lots of acorns.
After you’ve covered your local parks, you can head to the Pine Barrens and fill up on as many cranberries and wild blueberries as you can carry. The area is world famous for its wild blueberries. The Jersey Shore is pretty epic for seaside foraging, too.
Are the recipes in this book strictly for those who hunt and gather, or can people who get most of their food from the grocery store, the farmers market, and perhaps their own garden, find some useful information and recipes in it?
Every recipe in the book, with maybe one or two exceptions, can be replicated with domestic ingredients. The flavors will not be identical, but you’ll get the gist of the recipe. Don’t have mulberries? Use blackberries. Don’t have venison? Use lamb or veal or beef. No pheasant? Try a free-range chicken. And fish of all sorts are pretty interchangeable, too.
Here's a challenge for you. I'm not very far from the Chesapeake Bay, and right now there's a big push to eat the invasive species being called the Chesapeake Bay Ray (Cownose Ray). My local grocery store has been selling the seafood, but I'm not sure what to do with it. What would you do with it?
Challenge? Skate and ray goes for $19 a pound in many fish markets, are a delicacy at the finest seafood restaurants in the world and have been part of classical French cooking since Escoffier. Skates and rays shouldn’t be much of a challenge at all. They are normal, even fancy, seafood. People get all bent about “ray” versus “skate,” when they are more or less the same at the table.
The classic preparation is skate wing in brown butter. Lightly flour the wings, which have been filleted off the central cartilage, and sauté in butter. Remove the cooked wing and gently cook the butter until is browns nicely. Maybe add some capers, lemon and black pepper and add the skate back in to coat with the sauce. Enjoy!
After you're done your book tour, what's next for you, your cooking and your blog/writing?
Another book. I am already in the planning stages for it, actually. I will also be doing more foraging/fishing/hunting expeditions to help teach newbies the pursuit, and I’ll try to get back to the freelance magazine writing and catering I did before the book. As for Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, it will always be my outlet for whatever experiments with wild food I happen to be doing at the time. The blog is the core of what I do, and I have a few upgrades I am planning for it next year, time willing.
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