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It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer Hardcover – May 7, 2013


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It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer + If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat: Misadventures in Hunting, Fishing, and the Wilds of Suburbia
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (May 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802119557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119551
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #578,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mr. Heavey reaffirms the value of things small and common that were once treasured but that we now walk by without a passing glance: persimmons, cattails, giant mushrooms, squirrels, morels, dandelions, wild cherries, frogs and crawfish.

"Washington can be a cold and bloodless place, but life is all around if you just scratch the surface, poke around and keep your sense of humor. Mr. Heavey does a good job of that, and like Ol' Man River, his book just keeps rolling along." - Angus Phillips, The Wall Street Journal

“Locavores can be tiresome with their insistence on sourcing (and discussing) everything they put in their precious little mouths. Bill Heavey ran the risk of being a bore in his account of attempting to hunt, fish, grow or forage as much of his food as possible, It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It, but escaped thanks to good humor, poking fun at hard-core foodies and himself while still finding merit in the movement. . . . Mr. Heavey takes us back to the joys—and occasional pitfalls—of the humble edibles around us, and his conclusions ring true. The finest things I ever ate, wandering the East Coast with rod and gun for 30 years, were the most local . . . Mr. Heavey reaffirms the value of things small and common that were once treasured but that we now walk by without a passing glance: persimmons, cattails, giant mushrooms, squirrels, morels, dandelions, wild cherries, frogs, crawfish and the whitetail deer that occasionally wander through backyards—at their peril, if it's Mr. Heavey's lawn.”—Wall Street Journal

“Heavey’s bumbling attempts at self-sufficiency are a winning mixture of compelling and hilarious.”—Modern Farmer

“There is much to like about Bill Heavey’s latest book. In it, Heavey, editor-at-large and back page columnist for Field & Stream magazine, follows a sometimes difficult, often challenging, and occasionally humorous path to eating wild. . . . The book is an enjoyable read, funny without being cute and thought-provoking without an overbearing teacher-to-student tone. If you’re not already a Heavey fan, this will likely turn you into one.”—Courier-Journal (Louisville)

“A humorous tale about a subject that’s often taken too seriously.”—Grubstreet

“An engaging autobiography/ersatz primer on how to (or not to) undertake subsistence living in an urban environment. While this title is chock full of facts about nature and industrialized foodways, it’s also a story about friendship and falling in love. VERDICT: Laced with tart humor and spiked with moments of sentimentality, this work makes for a compelling read.”—Library Journal

“Brilliant and incisive. . . . It’s Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It is gently thrilling and endlessly emblematic of the chaotic way people evolved to become what they are now. The thing about life is that on your way to the hunt, you never know what you’ll gather.”—The VC Reporter

“Heavey tells a tale in which a totally normal dude gets a wild hair up his ass about growing, hunting, and foraging for his own food. The trouble—and the delight—is where he lives; not Idaho or someplace rural, but rather inside Washington D.C.’s Beltway. The result is a hilarious and super instructive book . . . Heavey’s experience writing for magazines obviously taught him how to master the skill of keeping the reader’s attention. His dry hilarity on everything from rototilling to the rarely-seen but abundant monkeyface eel marks, makes this book something special.”—Library Journal

"If Bill Heavey felt like it, he could write a book about something as boring as shuffleboard and it'd turn out to be good. He's just that sharp and funny. But thankfully, in It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It, he chooses to write about things that are close to my heart, such as hunting, fishing, and wild food. Whether he's hanging out with trendy foragers in San Francisco or butchering caribou with indigenous hunter-gatherers in Alaska, he relates his experiences with respect, curiosity, and well-honed humor. Not only is this book perfect for anyone who loves food or the out-of-doors; it's perfect for anyone who loves a good story, well-told."—Steven Rinella, author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, Meat Eater, and American Buffalo

“Bill Heavey is the convivial and erudite hunting/fishing/foraging/trespassing partner you never had—and just as well, because he generally returns from the 'wild' (backyard, park, and—yes—cemetery) bloodied and reeking. His entertaining yet sneakily informative tales will have you rolling in the thistle.”—William Alexander, author of The $64 Tomato

“This is a tale of a leap into the deep-end of extreme foodieism—clumsy, bold, courageous, hilarious, honest, and touching. Bill wrote an onion. The first layer is a funny, witty adventure story. Peel it back, and we'll find leaf upon leaf of how-to, coming-of-age, consumerist criticism, cultural discovery, plights real and imagined, and ultimately, a love story. Bill has given us all permission to not only discover a new facet of our edible lives, but to enjoy it.”—Duff Goldman, Ace of Cakes

“The age-old art of foraging takes Bill Heavey from his back yard to a Louisiana swamp and points beyond. But this is not a tale of trendy tablefare. With a healthy dose of skepticism, a dollop of humor, and even a dash of romance, Heavey transforms the typical ingredients of midlife crisis into a surprising feast of renewal, finding true sustenance in nature's garden.”—Langdon Cook, author of Fat of the Land

“A book with many layers, it’s refreshingly untrendy, and it’s narrated with great humor and honesty.”—PopMatters

About the Author

Bill Heavey is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, where he has written since 1993. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Men’s Journal, Outside, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Best American Magazine Writing.

More About the Author

Bill Heavey was born in Birmingham, Alabama, so that his mother would not have to endure the shame of having had a Yankee child. The first article he ever published as about teaching children to write poetry. This was probably the high point of his career. He descended into travel writing, profiles and finally into first person narrative.

He is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, is still not exactly sure what that means, but figures it's better than an editor-behind-bars. He also writes the back page column, "A Sportsman's Life."

He is the author of "If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat?", a collection of his Field & Stream work.

He has a new book, "It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer," coming out April 2. (You're right, it is a damn long title. But it's too late to change it.) Chronicling his attempts at closing the distance between himself and what he eats, the books shows Heavey learning many valuable lessons.

"Edible," for example, is very different from "tasty."

It's harder to kill a squirrel with a hoe than you'd think. Especially when it's screaming at you from your neighbor's overgrown bed of English ivy with an arrow sticking out of its leg.

It's possible to make and eat a salad out of the weeds in your lawn, almost all of which are edible. (See first lesson.)

Few things so lift a man's spirit as heading down the road on a spring morning to rent a powerful machine with which he will destroy something.

The first chapter of a foraging book includes a list of 90 poisonous plants. Like an Old West Gunfighter notching his kills, there were asterisks by each plant with a known fatality to its credit. Of the 90 plants, 24 had asterisks.

If you go frog-grabbing in the Atchafalaya Basin at night with a powerful spotlight strapped to your head, you will find yourself looking down at frogs the size of rotisserie chickens. And you don't want to grab anything that has red eyes. Because that's a gator.

If you're trying to get a group of Native Americans to accept and like you, adopting a forced and extroverted cordiality is not the way to go. Trust me on this.




Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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I just finished reading this book(sitting in a KFC).
Virgil C. Henle
Field & Stream columnist Bill Heavey takes you on a hilarious journey about what it was like for him to live like his hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Man
Written with some humor and not taking himself too seriously (which is very nice), and a good bit of stories and memoir.
Lisa

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Frank VINE VOICE on May 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By ladyfingers TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Being a fellow hunter/gatherer, I expected someone authoring a book on these subjects to be better informed. Only after reading a few chapters do readers discover Bill Heavey really doesn't know much about weeds, gardening and wild greens. Had he not written chapters about other people's far more interesting experiences, his own would be few and unremarkable. Mr. Heavey's personal fishing and hunting stories were better. It's obvious these are really his true passions.

Nevertheless, the author fills in the blanks nicely, and ties it all together with a wonderfully written introduction and epilogue. As a matter of fact, they were my favorite parts of the book. Those short sections say a lot about Bill Heavey's character, and others like him who hunger for a deeper connection with the natural world.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Between the title, cover art, and description, I very much expected this to be a very funny take on the topic, in line with the Patrick McManus outdoorsman books.

It's not.

It DOES have humor in it and many of the stories did make me smile if not laugh out loud, but it also is quite serious in many places with a lot of introspection by the author into himself and those he encounters. It also has a lot of profanity, a touch of drug use, and more than a few graphic descriptions of killing various animals, FYI.

But on the whole I very much enjoyed the book - Heavey isn't shy about sharing bits of his life and goes through his various experiences dealing with foraging. He apparently started as a writer for Field and Stream Magazine and similar publications as an "everyman" - i.e. not an expert but just as a guy who enjoys getting out there. In the process, he finds that getting his own food is quite a powerful experience and makes various acquaintances who encourage and grow this habit.

He does a great job of making himself and the people around him - his partial custody and picky eater daughter, his foul mouthed and holder of non-standard ethics friend Paula, his self sought guides in Cajun country and indigenous Alaska, the characters of the "local foodie" movement of San Francisco and his new found friend Michelle who forages to help her grocery bill with her two children.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lance M. Foster VINE VOICE on May 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've been getting more into foraging, and have all kinds of guidebooks, but it's kind of lonely because no one around me is into it. This book is great because you get to partner along with a good writer on the same journey. From his backyard to the coast and hunting with the Gwich'in of Alaska, he not only learns the basics of finding and collecting plants and animals to eat, he gets deeper into the cultural and psychological aspects of it all...using humor and an easy-going rapport with the reader. For those that like a little romance with their reading, there's some of that too...with a happy ending :-)
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By javajunki TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an interesting book, sometimes enjoyable, downright funny in a few places, often cruel and yet insightful especially involving the separation of fact from fiction surrounding the slow food movement.

Now, having said that, this is MUCH more about killing animals of some kind than gardening or foraging. Be aware, the hunter is emphasized while the gatherer is well, mininimized and somewhat mocked. Amateur mistakes are made - fortunately few are harmful to anyone other than the animals - at time bordering on irresponsible if not overly cruel.

The business of slow foods - whether the San Francisco foodie forager groups or the backwood poachers make for interesting reading. The ineptitude of many foraging groups paints a painful but probably accurate picture. The haphazard manner of going about "gardening" and foraging leaves a lot to be desired. This guy dabbles a lot but doesn't really add anything of interest for someone interested in pursing this on an individual basis. In general, the tone was rather mocking...backwoods groups are portrayed as a bunch of borderline trespassing hillbillies while city dwelling foragers are seen as little more than experiential foodies. However, in the final analysis, the author manages to put together a meal consisting of foods without the middle man (and gain a prospective new life partner in the interim). All in all a decent read if for no other reason than the sometimes cynical view of participants at all levels, the much more realistic portrayal of the difficulty of going about hunting and gathering especially in modern day life and the often cringe inducing revelations of the authors errors along the way.
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