Forager, feed thyself

  • Galchenkova, odalaigh, Istock
 

Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager
Langdon Cook
224 pages, hardcover, $26.95.
Skipstone Press, 2009.

When Langdon Cook met his future wife, his lack of culinary prowess nearly chased her away. "Cooking meant heating up a box of mac 'n' cheese or opening a can of chili," he confesses in the prologue to Fat of the Land, a collection of 15 essays and recipes, arranged by the seasons, that details Cook's metamorphosis from re-heater of store-bought cans to wild-food chef and gourmand.

Readers of Cook's blog, Fat of the Land, from which many of the essays are adapted, will be familiar with the story of his conversion. Cook's exuberance for the fruits of his adopted Pacific Northwest is contagious. For in foraging, Cook casts a wide net, gathering to his table not only the expected greens and mushrooms, but anything edible that can be caught without a firearm, including fish.

Those who fear that a foraged diet necessarily resembles the endless salad bar at a weight-loss clinic can relax. Whether Cook has a cow on retainer somewhere on the grounds, he doesn't say, but eight of the 15 recipes feature butter, and five have a starring role for heavy cream. Clearly, Cook believes the exertion required to forage obviates any need for calorie counting.

Living off the land is often held up as an ideal of self-sufficiency, the rejection of crowded supermarket aisles in favor of a solitary walk through the woods. But in these essays, Cook is rarely alone; he seems always to be learning some lesson from other foragers, whether immigrant squid jiggers on a Seattle pier or a prospective brother-in-law. And though Cook is hardly a proselytizing sort, the book carries a subtle indictment of the anti-social habits of some of his fellow foragers. In a society where greed has decimated fish stocks, other wild foods are equally vulnerable.

Eyeing the superior haul of a fellow clammer, Cook feels a "pinch of envy (that) reminded me of competitive morel hunting and salmon fishing. It was a debilitating emotion that could only lead to further moral dissipation and a general funk." Should he dig somewhere more private? Better to watch and learn, he decides.

When he leaves behind the corporate diet, Cook finds abundance in his own weed-infested backyard. And he gets the girl as well. For in Cook's eyes, foraging is not about providing only for oneself, but about building community. A good meal is meant to be shared, after all.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...