It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It

Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer

By Bill Heavey
(Atlantic Monthly Press, Hardcover, 9780802119551, 256pp.)

Publication Date: May 2013

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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A longtime contributor to Field and Stream, Bill Heavey knew more than a little about hunting and fishing when he embarked on an ambitious project a few years ago to see how far he could get “eating wild.” But Heavey knew next to nothing about gardening or foraging, and he lives in northern Virginia, close to Washington, D.C. The rural wilds, this was not. Is it any surprise that his tasty triumphs were equaled by his hilarious misadventures?

With just the right dose of self-deprecation, Heavey tells the story of his quest, beginning locally and moving out from there. He digs up the ground behind his house and plants an elaborate garden only to be driven to squirrel murder (and a cover-up). He experiences “abundance mania” in the perch run on the Potomac, and again when he spots perfect wild mushrooms in Arlington National Cemetery. He forages for wild watercress, berries, and pawpaws within the beltway, and hunts crayfish in Louisiana and caribou on the Alaskan tundra.

With teachers that include Paula, a grizzled local so popular among DC fishers that she’s been called “the Pablo Escobar of herring,” Hue, a Bronze Star ex-military survival instructor and foraging expert, Michelle, a single mother unselfconsciously devoted to eating local, and Jody, a weathered Cajun fisherman, Bill learns how to catch and cook frogs, prepare cattail pancakes, make salads out of garden weeds and bake a pie with foraged wild cherries. To the delight of his readers and to his young daughter’s despair, Heavey also suffers serious blood loss, humiliation, and meals that are best described as “edible.”

Hunting and Gathering is entertaining and informative, Bill Heavey at his best, and worst.

About the Author

Bill Heavey is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, where he has written since 1993. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Men’s Journal, Outside, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Best American Magazine Writing.

Praise For It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It

“The age-old art of foraging takes Bill Heavey from his back yard to a Louisiana swamp and points beyond. But this is not a tale of trendy tablefare. With a healthy dose of skepticism, a dollop of humor, and even a dash of romance, Heavey transforms the typical ingredients of midlife crisis into a surprising feast of renewal, finding true sustenance in nature's garden.” —Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land

“Bill Heavey is the convivial and erudite hunting/fishing/foraging/trespassing partner you never had—and just as well, because he generally returns from the “wild” (backyard, park, and—yes—cemetery) bloodied and reeking. His entertaining yet sneakily informative tales will have you rolling in the thistle.” —William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato

“This is a tale of a leap into the deep-end of extreme foodieism—clumsy, bold, courageous, hilarious, honest, and touching. Bill wrote an onion. The first layer is a funny, witty adventure story. Peel it back, and we'll find leaf upon leaf of how-to, coming-of-age, consumerist criticism, cultural discovery, plights real and imagined, and ultimately, a love story. Bill has given us all permission to not only discover a new facet of our edible lives, but to enjoy it.” —Duff Goldman, Ace of Cakes

"If Bill Heavey felt like it, he could write a book about something as boring as shuffleboard and it'd turn out to be good. He's just that sharp and funny. But thankfully, in It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It, he chooses to write about things that are close to my heart, such as hunting, fishing, and wild food. Whether he's hanging out with trendy foragers in San Francisco or butchering caribou with indigenous hunter-gatherers in Alaska, he relates his experiences with respect, curiosity, and well-honed humor. Not only is this book perfect for anyone who loves food or the out-of-doors; it's perfect for anyone who loves a good story, well-told."—Steven Rinella, author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, Meat Eater, and American Buffalo.

“A book with many layers, it’s refreshing untrendy, and it’s narrated with great humor and honesty.”—Catherine Ramsdell, PopMatters

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