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It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to…

It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a…

by Bill Heavey

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Bill's an acquaintance of mine, living in the same neighborhood and I bought my copy directly from him. I enjoyed hearing his voice in my head as I read this and recognizing the locales he was in. Parts are very funny indeed, although the underlying message of how hard it is to be self-sufficient truly comes through. ( )
  MikeRhode | Feb 21, 2014 |
Funny and informative, though not a guide. Personalities are as important as resources in this humorous account of eating wild foods.
  ritaer | Sep 16, 2013 |
Bill Heavey, a contributor to a fishing magazine, no stranger to hunting and fishing decides to see if he can live more self-sufficiently. He meets with and gets to know people who teach him secrets of fishing for perch, herring, picking what he'd previously considered weeds growing at the side of the road, tilling his land for a vegetable garden, picking wild mushrooms at the National Arlington Cemetery, catching and foraging for cattails, sometimes to the despair of his young daughter, Emma. He starts local, keeping his hunting and fishing around the Washington DC area, but later moves further to Alaska to hunt caribou and Louisiana to catch crayfish.

His project is not without bloody mishap such as when he commits squirrel murder with his crossbow and has to hide the evidence, or when he mistakenly picks thorny weeds, slashing his own hand and getting covered in blood and mud before picking his daughter up from dance class. Amidst the humor,he brings to our consciousness that with consumerism, many people no longer have to eat seasonally. We now have the luxury of fruits and vegetables flown in from various countries year round, farmed fish and animals fed with vitamins and growth hormones so their breeders can get them to the market and our tables faster and in the process, we lose the true flavor of natural food.

It's interesting, it's funny and it is a window into the world of the few people who live off the land and sea. ( )
  cameling | Sep 15, 2013 |
I understand Bill Heavey's desire to have food independence - live by growing, hunting, fishing and foraging food. It's the food side of living off the grid. Heavey challenges the lifestyle of the consumer who scouts in supermarkets buying shrink wrapped meat on Styrofoam trays and vegetables from the neatly arranged display under "natural" light, sprayed periodically to look fresh.

I took a personal interest in Heavey's story, being a Master Gardener and occasional forager and also living "inside the Beltway" around the District of Columbia. For me, foraging for natural edibles has the same lure as treasure hunting.

Although I did not expect hilarity in this book, I laughed out loud several times. For example, Heavey's "lawn salad" made from old weeds was not a great success. "It was agreeably crunchy at first bite, after which I settled in for a prolonged period of mastication. I chewed until I felt like the muscles on the sides of my head were actually increasing in size."

As a novice backyard gardener, Heavey experienced the common problems of correct soil preparation, buying seeds based on the enticing pictures on the packets, then, squirrels poaching his tomatoes. I understand the desire to take out these tree rats and know people, also living inside the Beltway, who fire paint ball and pellet guns at them. Being a bow hunter, Heavey instinctively went for his bow when confronted with squirrels creating mayhem in the tomato bed. Big Mistake! Not only is this illegal, but injuring the squirrel who escaped with an arrow impaling his leg is reprehensible, as acknowledged by Heavey. Upon the arrow hitting the targeted squirrel, Heavey relates that "my heart raced and a rush of conflicting chemicals flooded my system, exhilaration and shame, wonder and horror, pride and disgrace." These emotions were experienced before he realized the inhumane results of his action.

Some reviewers were offended by the hunting portions of this book. I was not. Heavey is not an irresponsible, bloodthirsty killer shooting animals for pleasure. No shooting for trophies here.

Heavey bow hunts - a more sportsmanlike type of hunting requiring patience, stealth and skill. He spent three years trying to kill a deer before succeeding. He is ethical in taking shots, trying for a double-lung shot because it results in the fastest death. Obviously, he also field dresses the kill and eats the meat. Neither Heavey nor his fellow hunters take pleasure in the death of an animal, only in the success of the hunt for the resulting meat.

Foraging in an urban setting is risky and difficult but possible, with delicious results. I have made delicious raspberry pies from berries picked in public parks and growing near apartment buildings. As a new urban forager, I have also stood, unknowingly, in deep poison ivy while harvesting juicy blackberries growing in a neglected lot near a gas station. This required a visit to a doctor for cortisone shots and pills, and LOTS of pain and suffering. That pie was expensive, indeed.

Heavey expanded the theme of living off the land to include interesting chronicles of the disappearing lifestyles of Louisiana Cajuns and Gwich'in Indians, living on the Alaskan tundra. He was able to find acceptance among them and participate in their hunting and fishing expeditions. Wild game is a critical portion of the diet of these people. Jody, Heavey's Cajun crawfisherman friend, estimated that 70 percent of his family's meat is wild game.

Reviewers also objected to Heavey's nighttime frogging trip in the Atchafalaya Basin with Jody. They used no gigs or mechanical grabbers. With bare hands, they just snatched the frogs from the surface of the water and put them in a rubber-coated wire envelope, a crawfish trap. The next day Heavey helped to butcher and clean the frogs. Later, families and friends had a frog feast, relishing the light, sweet meat cooked in a rich sauce piquant eaten over rice.

Heavey's ultimate success as an urban forager was finding and marrying a foraging soulmate. How can you beat that!

In the epilogue, Heavey tries to explain his hunger for a deeper connection to the natural world. "I was a modern man still trying to find out where I belonged." He wasn't born an Indian or a Cajun. He didn't grow up in a family of hunters or foragers. He just craved for a closer relationship to nature. "Was it possible to be nostalgic for something you'd never had?"

In sum, I found "It's Only Slow Food Until Your Try to Eat It" to be honest, interesting and well-written stories of Heavey's trials and success in foraging, as well as realistic, sympathetic descriptions of subsistence fishermen and hunters and foragers in San Francisco, Alaska and Louisiana. ( )
1 vote brendajanefrank | May 6, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802119557, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -0400)

"Heavey chronicles his attempts to 'eat wild,' seeing how much of his food he can hunt, fish, grow, and forage"--Dust jacket flap.

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