In which an inside-the-Beltway type goes all Euell Gibbons on us—and doesn’t starve to death and even finds true love in the bargain.
Granted, Heavey isn’t your typical D.C. commuter: A freelance writer, he hunts, fishes and contributes columns and pieces to magazines such as Field & Stream, Outside, and Men’s Journal on hook-and-bullet subjects—though, as he describes it, he is blessed with more enthusiasm than art. Here, he describes, as both literary project and life hacking, his efforts to live closer to the land, lessening his reliance on grocery stores and big carbon footprints in favor of heading out into the world to gather baskets full of goodies. His travels, sad to say, require big carbon footprints, as he jets off to the Arctic and the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico. What he brings back, apart from mushrooms, serviceberries and wild rice, are stories of how people of all sorts have gone back to the land, some out of necessity and custom, others by choice. One neighbor, for instance, is a combat veteran who has mastered the flora of the region, a solid candidate for survival come the apocalypse. (And apocalypse, meltdown and the end of civilization are never far from some of these back-to-the-landers’ thoughts.) Heavey describes himself as “not the most likely guy to write a book about food,” a matter he skirts around by writing about many things other than food. However, he does provide some useful recipes for dishes such as boiled ground squirrel, fried perch and sautéed dandelion greens (to be found in lawns and parks, with the proviso, “What you’re trying to do is avoid herbicides”).
Really an overblown magazine article, lightly and pleasantly enough written, though without the depth of like-minded projects by Bill Bryson, Jim Harrison and others.