Jim Harrison's The Raw and the Cooked
extols our profound (and precarious) relationship to what we eat, and to the natural world. Compiled from the author's much-loved Esquire
, and Men's Journal
columns, the book offers charging personal panoramas in the guise of food essays. In pieces with titles like "Conscious Dining," "Hunger, Real and Unreal," and "Repulsion and Grace," Harrison--a kind of dharma bum cum foodie--takes his readers into realms of taste and feeling, spirit and body. "We are often like autistic children," he writes, "unable to connect experiences, especially if we want something interesting to eat." A Michigan "outlander," he nonetheless travels wide and can tell of the "tummy thrills" engendered by trips to restaurants like Manhattan's Babbo, meals planned and meals remembered. But the journeys he likes best involve hunting or foraging, his personal salves: "I arrived home in a palsied state," he writes. "To set the brakes, I wandered for hours in the woods looking for morels. At one point I wandered three hours to find four morels. I did however gather enough to cook our annual spring rite, a simple sauté of the mushrooms, wild leeks and sweetbreads."
A warning: Harrison can lick his spiritual wounds publicly for long stretches, and not all readers will find his swaggering muscularity to their taste. Those who follow him are, however, rewarded by contact with his passion and sly, world-colliding depictions: "The dinner was a mystical experience," he writes, "and as such you must live through it to fully understand the mysticality ... less apparent when I got up next morning in a driving rainstorm with the usual flooded freeways." --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
A rumination on the unholy trinity of sex, death and food, this long-awaited collection of gastronomic essays reads like the love child of M.F.K. Fisher and James Thorne on acid. Harrison poet, novelist and screenplay writer perhaps best known for Legends of the Fall and Just Before Dark writes with a passion for language equal to his passion for good food. His thick, muscular phrases tumble off the tongue: you can almost hear him sampling the language as deliberately as he does his French burgundies, and with as much genuine pleasure. The essays filled with sightings of big names (Jack Nicholson, Peter Matthiessen) take readers from meals in Harrison's homes in northern Michigan and New Mexico, to delicacies in New York, Los Angeles and Paris; Harrison's palate, while refined, is refreshingly earthy. He is a lover of duck thighs, pigs' feet, calves' brains, foie gras, confit, sweetbreads, game birds and mussels, served with exquisite wines and "shovels of garlic." Perhaps not surprisingly, Harrison also ruminates on gout, weight and indigestion. But to him, the trade-off is worth it: "Only through the diligent use of sex and, you guessed it, food," he writes, "can we further ourselves, hurling our puny `I ams' into the face of twenty billion years of mute, cosmic history. With every fanny glance or savory bite you are telling a stone to take a hike, a mountain that you are alive, a star that you exist." Equally recommended for the literary crowd and armchair cooks (although perhaps not for vegetarians).
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