Book Review: Fat of The Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager by Langdon Cook

I love books with disclaimers. This one warns me, in legalese, that despite the fact that Langdon has been eating what he’s foraged for quite some time and has lived to tell about it, I shouldn’t trust his advice. Well, lawyers, I have been following Langdon’s advice ever since I started following his blog three years ago.

There are three major aspects I love about both Fat of the Land the book and the blog:

1. Recipes. Almost every post on the blog includes directions on how you can recreate Langdon’s latest found-food culinary masterpiece, and every chapter of the book ends the same way. These aren’t the usual foraging recipes for wilted dandelion greens and radioactive waste-colored nettle teas. Mr. Cook teaches you to cook up Risotto nero con calamari (black risotto with squid) and veal chops with morel cream sauce, among other tasty treats.

2. Characters. This is nonfiction, so these are real characters – and I mean that in both senses of the phrase. They are real people and they are really out there. When foraging, you meet a lot of strange folks. In Langdon’s case, more often than not, he’s brought some oddballs with him, too: Beedle, semi-retired high school biology teacher who names his fishing flies after the three-color Homeland Security terror-alert system; Cora, gourmet cook and potter who drives a VW camper-van and has a dog named Buddha; Trouthole, Langdon’s former boss, described by a mutual friend as “rectangular shaped”.

3. Delight. I simply love the way the blog and book are written. Langdon has the requisite Seattle-ite sarcasm (something that grows on you like lichen – Langdon is not native, but he’s been here long enough to learn the language), but its tempered with a sense of almost childlike delight in not just the free food growing all around him, but in the landscapes the food is sprouting from. And unlike in the wild food books I read as a kid, Langdon’s food searches aren’t restricted to casual hikes up and down old logging roads – his adventures are really something to delight in: he freedives for lingcod, traverses a massive forest fire burn site for mushrooms, vies with inner-city bums for Dandelion rights, and lures crabs into pots with cat food.

— Amanda


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