Book Review: The Mushroom Hunters

The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America mushroom_hunters_cover

First off, a confession of sorts: I am not a mushroom hunter, and my experience with wild mushrooms is limited to once ordering a dish with porcini mushrooms in a restaurant.

I read The Mushroom Hunters not because of any great love of wild mushrooms – it’s because I enjoy Langdon Cook’s storytelling, and his subject matter is interesting – whether you’re a mushroom hunter or not.

Mr. Cook’s writing first appeared on my radar in issue 4.1 of The Flyfish Journal, which led me to his blog. The blog pointed me to his first book, Fat of The Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, a great read for  Pacific Northwest outdoors lovers and foodies alike. When he announced the upcoming release of The Mushroom Hunters a few months ago, I eagerly awaited its arrival.

The Mushroom Hunters dives into the societal fringe world of commercial mushroom pickers, predominantly those working and living in the Pacific Northwest. The book’s cast of (interesting) characters include recent immigrants from Southeast Asia, a rough & tumble libertarian-type named Doug Carnell, and Jeremy Faber, mushroom buyer operating a premium wild food wholesale business in Seattle and New York called Foraged & Found Edibles.

To say I enjoyed The Mushroom Hunters would be an understatement – I devoured the book like a foodie devours anything with a truffle shaved on it. It’s entertaining almost to a fault; I found myself cheering for Doug and Jeremy’s success, and bummed out at their failures and disappointments.

The book includes personal anecdotes of the author mixed in with just enough culinary, historical, and biological references of the various mushroom species to make you want to learn more. Hell, I didn’t get to the halfway point of The Mushroom Hunters before I started looking for a good pocket guide to edible mushrooms (I ended up buying All That the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora – who makes an appearance in The Mushroom Hunters).

Much like The Fat of the Land, Langdon Cook’s new book is a tremendous read for outdoorsfolk and foodies alike. I’ll be rereading The Mushroom Hunters again soon – that’s how much I enjoyed it.

*          *          *

The new-again movement toward foraging, hunting and sustainable food sources has occasionally been derided as being the realm of hipsters or even part of the Agenda 21 conspiracy, but say what you want – the movement has merit. You can’t get anymore sustainable or organic than something you pick, catch or shoot yourself.

I often state the reasons for my Cascadian migration were solely based on desire to fish year-round and my hatred of cold winters, but a minor role in the decision to move were played by writers and web personalties such as Langdon Cook, Hunt Gather Cook’s Hank Shaw (honest-food.net, @hank_shaw) and Rohan Anderson (wholelarderlove.com, @WholeLarderLove) of Whole Larder Love. There are far more opportunities for finding and eating wild & healthy food on Vancouver Island than there are on Canada’s East Coast, for a variety of reasons – five or six months of winter being a good one.

Of course, another honourable mention as part-inspiration in my move westward  is fellow Canuck and my available-through-email-and-Twitter fly fishing guide, Chad Brealey (@chadbrealey). A couple of years back, Chad launched an idea for a TV series called Salt, Fresh & Field. In my mind (as well as many other folks in the fly fishing blogosphere) it was brilliant – but unfortunately it got shelved while in development.

Here’s hoping the shelving isn’t permanent; this project has crowdfunding opportunity written all over it. I’d be in. Below is the teaser from Salt, Fresh & Field - if you enjoy it, maybe we can mass-nag Chad via Twitter to ‘unshelve’ it… :)

(Can’t see the embedded video above? Click here)

Thanks to Chad, Hank, Langdon and Rohan for the inspiration – I f**king love it on the West Coast.

And remember: you can eat any mushroom you want – but only once.

- MT

2 comments

  • Hey Matt –

    Thanks for including Salt, Fresh & Field in such illustrious company. I hope we can match everyone’s enthusiasm for what we are hoping to build.

    I am very happy to let you know that we are in pre-production for the first three episodes of Salt, Fresh & Field and will begin shooting this November. It will be available on-demand (provider to be named shortly…) coupled with a heavy online presence as early as January, 2014.

    I’ll be sure to let you and your readers know the specifics as soon as they are set.

    on a rising tide,

    cb

    • That is great news, Chad – I’m sure there’s more than a few people looking forward to this! Congrats!

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