The Mushroom Hunters: A Hidden World of Food, Money, and (Mostly Legal) Adventure (Paperback)
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“A beautifully written portrait of the people who collect and distribute wild mushrooms . . . food and nature writing at its finest.”—Eugenia Bone, author of Mycophilia
“A rollicking narrative . . . Cook [delivers] vivid and cinematic scenes on every page.”—The Wall Street Journal
In the dark corners of America’s forests grow culinary treasures. Chefs pay top dollar to showcase these elusive and enchanting 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 one of nature’s last truly wild foods: the uncultivated, uncontrollable mushroom.
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 fast-paced, character-driven tour through a world that is by turns secretive, dangerous, and quintessentially American.
About the Author
Langdon Cook is the author of Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, which The Seattle Times called “lyrical, practical and quixotic.” Cook has been profiled on the Travel Channel, in Bon Appetit, WSJ magazine, Whole Living, and Salon.com, and his writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Sunset, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and Outside. He is also a columnist for Seattle magazine and has been the recipient of many grants and awards. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two children.
“The Mushroom Hunters lends fresh, sharp illumination to a little-known but vigorously contested patch of gastronomic turf. . . . [An] entertaining ramble through the woods with a group of ragtag characters.”—The Washington Post
“Beguiling, surprising . . . After reading The Mushroom Hunters, you’ll never look at a portobello the same way.”—The Seattle Times
“Intrepid and inspired.”—Publishers Weekly
“Uncultivated mushrooms are one of our last truly wild foods; it often takes truly wild and rough mushroom hunters to bring them to our table. Cook travels and hunts with them in a riveting, crazy undertaking, told in often-poetic prose.”—Shelf Awareness
“If you’ve never thought of using the words ‘mushroom’ and ‘adventure’ in the same sentence, this gripping book will force you to reconsider.”—Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist
“With superb detail and intrepid research, Langdon Cook leads a fascinating trek deep into the mysterious world of mushroom hunting, blending intriguing natural history and quirky characters with insights into this murky, sometimes dangerous business. This is riveting stuff for food lovers.”—Kathleen Flinn, author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
“The Mushroom Hunters is one of those very infrequent and wonderful books that change your way of looking at something you think you don’t care about. Who knew the humble mushroom could be shot through with suspense? The way Langdon Cook writes about these delicious fungi—the excitement in the story of their capture; the flair of the telling—has me convinced I’d go pretty far out on the wire myself to get some.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
“The Mushroom Hunters is like the forest itself—gems are hidden throughout. Cook captures the surreal and deeply flavorful world of North America’s wild fungi, the subculture that seeks them, and the thrill of the treasure hunt.”—Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Planted Trees
“In The Mushroom Hunters, Langdon Cook unearths the iconoclastic frontier spirit of the obsessive band of underground foragers he encounters on the wild mushroom trail, including outlaw entrepreneurs, illegal immigrants, scofflaws, tweakers, and star chefs alike. You’ll never look at that matsutake on your dinner plate the same way again.”—Brad Thomas Parsons, James Beard Award–winning author of Last Call: Bartenders on Their Final Drink and the Wisdom and Rituals of Closing Time