After last week’s foraging adventures, food is on the mind. This edition of camp reads explores the complicated relationship between people and food. We are lucky that in this day and age we are no longer required to forage for nourishment, we simply buy what we like at the grocery store. But how does the produce in the grocery store differ from it’s wild ancestors and why has a world of exotic fruits been reduced to apples, bananas and oranges? What does it mean when we buy a fish labeled as wild or farmed and how does it impact the salmon runs in the local rivers we explore? How do the morels, mussels and clams get from our favorite forests and coastlines to our dinner plates? And with the GMO debate raging, what is the importance of seeds and why do they matter? These fascinating books explore these timely questions and will certainly give you plenty of food for thought.
The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook
Seattle’s famous forager, Langdon Cook, delves into the wild mushroom picking business in this fast paced narrative. His mycellial adventure follows the mushroom trail all over the northwest where colorful characters abound from the kitchens of Seattle’s famous restaurants to the morel rich burn areas of the eastern reaches of the northwest. Langdon is a regular contributor to Seattle Magazine and keeps a beautiful and informative blog on his website.
Shell Games by Craig Welch
Dive into the world of underwater crime in this dark and mysterious true story of Puget Sound poachers. Welch, an environmental reporter at the Seattle Times, follows wildlife cops on the trail of shellfish kingpins illegally harvesting geoduck and selling them on the Asian black market where they are considered a delicacy. This book will make you think twice about where the shellfish come from – and you won’t be able to put it down.
Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson
They say, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But did you know that some varieties of apples are better than others and that some have little nutritional value at all? Robinson explores the history of the fruits and vegetables you find in the grocery store and discovers that the produce we eat today has little in common with the nutritious foods our ancestors gathered in the wild. This great reference lists the best varieties to choose at the market as well as how to cook and store them for maximum nutritional value.
The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
In this fascinating book, prolific food writer Michael Pollen takes on the relationships between people and four specific plants. He discusses how the beauty of the tulip wreaked havoc on the 17th century European economy creating Tulipmania (see also: Road Trip: Skagit Valley). He explains how the sweetness of apples aided its expansion into the new world via a man called Johnny Appleseed. The much discussed plant of late, marijuana makes an appearance with it’s powerful chemical reactions in the human brain that aids in memory loss. Lastly, the potato serves as the example of man’s control of the plant for our modern day food consumption.
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg
Paul Greenberg takes on the “last wild food” in this informative book about our relationship with fish as food. The four fish the title refers to are salmon, cod, sea bass and tuna, the most desired fish on the market. He brings to light the problems with over-fishing and explores why these species are so desired and consequently farmed. He takes a close look at how the fish get to our dinner plates and offers ways to make the system more sustainable, efficient and healthy for both us and the fish. I look forward to reading Greenberg’s second book American Catch: The Fight For Our Local Seafood about the seafood industry.
The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson
As a follow up to his first book, Feathers, biologist Thor Hanson takes on the subject of his young son’s latest curiosity: the seed. Hanson shines a light on the role these tiny (or in some cases, very large) natural encasements of life had on history and our modern way of life. Seeds such as cottonseed, nutmeg, peppercorn, coffee and mace may have changed the course of the world by cultivating the Age of Discovery and the Industrial Revolution. A seed even influenced the design of an airplane. While the GMO debate has seeds on the minds of many of us lately, Hanson refrains from over-examining the subject and rather reminds us simply that the amazing and resilient seed is worthy of the discussion.
See Also: Fat of the Land by Langdon Cook