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The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America

by Langdon Cook

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1116196,465 (3.91)3
"In the dark corners of America's forests grow culinary treasures. Chefs pay top dollar to showcase these elusive and beguiling ingredients on their menus. Whether dressing up a filet mignon with smoky morels or shaving luxurious white truffles over pasta, the most elegant restaurants across the country now feature an abundance of wild mushrooms. The mushroom hunters, by contrast, are a rough lot. They live in the wilderness and move with the seasons. Motivated by Gold Rush desires, they haul improbable quantities of fungi from the woods for cash. Langdon Cook embeds himself in this shadowy subculture, reporting from both rural fringes and big-city eateries with the flair of a novelist, uncovering along the way what might be the last gasp of frontier-style capitalism. Meet Doug, an ex-logger and crabber--now an itinerant mushroom picker trying to pay his bills and stay out of trouble; Jeremy, a former cook turned wild-food entrepreneur, crisscrossing the continent to build a business amid cutthroat competition; their friend Matt, an up-and-coming chef whose kitchen alchemy is turning heads; and the woman who inspires them all. Rich with the science and lore of edible fungi--from seductive chanterelles to exotic porcini--The Mushroom Hunters is equal parts gonzo travelogue and culinary history lesson, a rollicking, character-driven tour through a world that is by turns secretive, dangerous, and tragically American."--book jacket.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Loved this book. Outdoor adventure, foraging and an occasional bit of danger from weird people, the weather, and sometimes the law. I really enjoyed the cultural excursion into the world of commercial mushroom hunters. This is not a book about mushrooms (although, there are a lot of mushrooms in it!). ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
Who knew these folks even existed? Lots of fun but beware - you'll probably never be able to buy those white mushrooms from the grocery story again. ( )
  cygnet81 | Jan 17, 2016 |
Cook travels across America and Canada with the people who make their living in the mushroom business. He teams with the freelance pickers who follow the growth patterns of a variety of mushrooms, mostly along the Pacific Northwest Coast, destined for your farmer's market or high-end restaurant. He shadows the mushroom buyers, the middle men who have the restaurant accounts, and he meets the chefs who rely on foraged produce for their menus. He also looks at the growing Oregon truffle industry and meets the people who are attempting to build a trade to rival the French market.

Even if you don't like mushrooms you'd find some really interesting information that translates to much of the foraged food movement. Cook spends a lot of time with the people who go into the forests, searching for mushrooms that will pay them, usually, just enough to get by. The competition is fierce, sometimes intimidating, yet these are people who have to know nature very well to survive. ( )
  mstrust | May 20, 2015 |
This was interesting, especially since we have been doing a lot of mushroom hunting ourselves. We hunt recreationally and this was more about commercial hunters, buyers and sellers. Some interesting cooking ideas. A wild group of people. I recommended it to my husband. We'll see what he thinks. ( )
  njcur | Jan 20, 2015 |
I spend a lot of time cooking and hiking in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, but somehow I've never given very much thought to the mushrooms (or the few people) I encounter in my wanderings. I want to sincerely thank this author for changing that. I'm sure I will look at the forests and fellow hikers of Washington and Oregon differently after reading Cook's research. I enjoyed this book immensely but, if I was pressed to give a suggested improvement, it would be to include a brief description of some of the fungi that novice recreational pickers may want to avoid while they are out there (or at least an acknowledgement that there are some inedible varieties). If this was the first text on the subject someone picked up, some younger readers without botanical backgrounds might be left with the mistaken impression that every mushroom they encounter is safe to eat. Even non-foragers who obtain most of their nourishment in restaurants will find much to enjoy in this book. Well worth the read. ( )
  dele2451 | Feb 14, 2014 |
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"In the dark corners of America's forests grow culinary treasures. Chefs pay top dollar to showcase these elusive and beguiling ingredients on their menus. Whether dressing up a filet mignon with smoky morels or shaving luxurious white truffles over pasta, the most elegant restaurants across the country now feature an abundance of wild mushrooms. The mushroom hunters, by contrast, are a rough lot. They live in the wilderness and move with the seasons. Motivated by Gold Rush desires, they haul improbable quantities of fungi from the woods for cash. Langdon Cook embeds himself in this shadowy subculture, reporting from both rural fringes and big-city eateries with the flair of a novelist, uncovering along the way what might be the last gasp of frontier-style capitalism. Meet Doug, an ex-logger and crabber--now an itinerant mushroom picker trying to pay his bills and stay out of trouble; Jeremy, a former cook turned wild-food entrepreneur, crisscrossing the continent to build a business amid cutthroat competition; their friend Matt, an up-and-coming chef whose kitchen alchemy is turning heads; and the woman who inspires them all. Rich with the science and lore of edible fungi--from seductive chanterelles to exotic porcini--The Mushroom Hunters is equal parts gonzo travelogue and culinary history lesson, a rollicking, character-driven tour through a world that is by turns secretive, dangerous, and tragically American."--book jacket.

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