By Molly Igoe
Elm Staff Writer
On Tuesday, April 7 in the Hynson Lounge, food writer Hank Shaw held a talk called “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast.” The event, sponsored by the Center for Environment and Society (CES), Anthropology Club, and the Ducks Unlimited Club, explored how to take food that has been hunted or foraged in the wild and make it into a delicious meal.
Shaw is a former commercial fisherman and line cook and has written two cookbooks about preparing food found in the wild. His blog, “Hunter Angler Gardener Cook” was named Best Food Blog by the James Beard Foundation in 2013 and he has written for various periodicals including “Food & Wine.” Before that, he was a political journalist for 18 years.
Shaw has experience hunting on the Eastern Shore and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, which made the talk all the more relevant to the audience at Washington College. He began by speaking about the importance of sustainable and environmentally friendly foods.
“We need to be in touch with the wild. There is so much technology that has made us turn away from the natural world that we have lost a part of ourselves.” He speculated that as a result of this divorce from nature, people are interested in eating food that comes directly from nature more than ever.
Shaw frequently drew inspiration in his talk from hunter-gatherers. He said that we are programmed to eat “a little of a lot” of varied foods, but today most Americans eat “a lot of a little,” consuming a very limited variety. This stems primarily from the lack of natural foods in most commercial grocery stores and restaurants.
Shaw grew up fishing catfish and flounder. He did not begin hunting until age 32 when he went out with a friend to shoot pheasants with a shotgun. This initial experience ignited his passion for hunting, and he hasn’t turned back since.
He discussed the virtues of hunting in a new and unique way by emphasizing that as homo sapiens, we are biologically programmed to be self-sufficient, which has always involved hunting in the wild.
“The ‘fun’ of hunting is not in killing a living thing- that is the hard part- but in being self-sufficient and gaining a sense of accomplishment. It looks awful to outsiders, but when you put that much time and effort into something as hard as hunting, you are going to celebrate once you have finally shot something.”
Hunting was portrayed by Shaw as an extremely time consuming activity that required an impressive amount of silence and patience. He said, “Hunters get to see things most ordinary people don’t see in the wild, because we have to silently observe animals for pretty long periods of time.”
The main reason that he talks to people about hunting and foraging is to encourage them to expand their repertoire and cook foods in different ways and to help them improve their fishing, foraging, and hunting skills.
Shaw identified himself as “a cook who hunts,” which has allowed for him to experiment and create unique meals from the foods he has found in the wild. He said, “For me, every meal is a story or adventure, and as long as you are willing to listen, learning how to prepare food in different ways is easy and understandable.”