Author Hank Shaw on foraging, cooking and his upcoming appearance at Boulder's Black Cat
Unless you count pork fat for sausages, Hank Shaw -- author of the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and recently published book Hunt, Gather, Cook -- hasn't bought a single scrap of meat since 2005.
To gather food, he forages, angles for his fish, hunts game for his meat and gathers plants for produce. "I spend less than $25 a week on groceries," he boasts. "And that's including beer."
It's a path he's been on since 2002 when, while working as a reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he told co-worker Chris Niskanen about the year he'd spent living only off of fish he caught himself on Long Island. "Chris said, 'Oh, yeah, you could do that on land, too. But you'd have to hunt,'" recalls Shaw, who, at the age of 32, took on that very challenge. "I grew up in suburban New Jersey. I never met a hunter until I was 24, but I've been a forager since I was a little boy and an angler since I was a little boy. If you want to complete the wild food triad, you need game."
And Shaw wanted to complete the triad partially for the connection to nature and where food is raised and partially because he wanted to explore new flavor combinations in his own cooking. "If you cook for a certain amount of time, you get a sense that everything's already been done," he says. "If you're looking to do something new and interesting, wild food is your best bet. It's also inherently seasonal. For me as a cook, it made perfect sense for me to combine something I'd been doing for my entire life with my cooking passion."
Nearly a decade later, Shaw has relocated to northern California, and he's been documenting his activities collecting and cooking food on a blog since 2007, covering everything from plants to fish to game. But sometime along the way, he realized that readers seeking to mimic him needed a little guidance. "I get hundreds of emails from readers that are looking for help," he says. "They have this thirst for knowledge of wild food that dovetails with a widespread rejection of factory farming. We're the only animal on the planet that can't feed ourselves without the help of the supermarket, and there's something molecularly wrong with that. People are starting to become aware of it. People want something real. They want to know where their food comes from. They want to be able to go and get it themselves."
In order to give back, Shaw decided to write a book. "It's a food-based primer on foraging, hunting and fishing," he explains. "It answers questions that I've been answering for four years now."
His goal, he says, was to help every willing person integrate wild foods into their lives. And that meant starting at the beginning. "If you didn't start hunting as a kid, hunting seems like an opaque, weird practice that people do who aren't you," he says. "I came at it really from a blank slate. I'm about adding foraging, fishing and hunting into an otherwise normal life. I want to help people grab a slice of the wild."