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The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand Paperback – September 17, 2002
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Jim Harrison's The Raw and the Cooked extols our profound (and precarious) relationship to what we eat, and to the natural world. Compiled from the author's much-loved Esquire, Smart, and Men's Journal columns, the book offers charging personal panoramas in the guise of food essays. In pieces with titles like "Conscious Dining," "Hunger, Real and Unreal," and "Repulsion and Grace," Harrison--a kind of dharma bum cum foodie--takes his readers into realms of taste and feeling, spirit and body. "We are often like autistic children," he writes, "unable to connect experiences, especially if we want something interesting to eat." A Michigan "outlander," he nonetheless travels wide and can tell of the "tummy thrills" engendered by trips to restaurants like Manhattan's Babbo, meals planned and meals remembered. But the journeys he likes best involve hunting or foraging, his personal salves: "I arrived home in a palsied state," he writes. "To set the brakes, I wandered for hours in the woods looking for morels. At one point I wandered three hours to find four morels. I did however gather enough to cook our annual spring rite, a simple sauté of the mushrooms, wild leeks and sweetbreads."
A warning: Harrison can lick his spiritual wounds publicly for long stretches, and not all readers will find his swaggering muscularity to their taste. Those who follow him are, however, rewarded by contact with his passion and sly, world-colliding depictions: "The dinner was a mystical experience," he writes, "and as such you must live through it to fully understand the mysticality ... less apparent when I got up next morning in a driving rainstorm with the usual flooded freeways." --Arthur Boehm --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
A rumination on the unholy trinity of sex, death and food, this long-awaited collection of gastronomic essays reads like the love child of M.F.K. Fisher and James Thorne on acid. Harrison poet, novelist and screenplay writer perhaps best known for Legends of the Fall and Just Before Dark writes with a passion for language equal to his passion for good food. His thick, muscular phrases tumble off the tongue: you can almost hear him sampling the language as deliberately as he does his French burgundies, and with as much genuine pleasure. The essays filled with sightings of big names (Jack Nicholson, Peter Matthiessen) take readers from meals in Harrison's homes in northern Michigan and New Mexico, to delicacies in New York, Los Angeles and Paris; Harrison's palate, while refined, is refreshingly earthy. He is a lover of duck thighs, pigs' feet, calves' brains, foie gras, confit, sweetbreads, game birds and mussels, served with exquisite wines and "shovels of garlic." Perhaps not surprisingly, Harrison also ruminates on gout, weight and indigestion. But to him, the trade-off is worth it: "Only through the diligent use of sex and, you guessed it, food," he writes, "can we further ourselves, hurling our puny `I ams' into the face of twenty billion years of mute, cosmic history. With every fanny glance or savory bite you are telling a stone to take a hike, a mountain that you are alive, a star that you exist." Equally recommended for the literary crowd and armchair cooks (although perhaps not for vegetarians).
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
(...)Harrison is at his best detailing those hidden corners of America that are quickly vanishing from our contracting universe where new advances in cuisine are largely limited to colored ketchups. And we both decry the flavorless but universal boneless, skinless chicken breast kept on menus everywhere for its entirely unprovocative nature, usually presented with all the flare and originality of an Alvarado Strret whore. The lengths to which Harrison will go NOT to eat a boring meal are fun to read, as is his continually incongruous Republican bashing. His writing is as relevant to your life as you would like it to be.
Where Harrison gets off-target is in his frequent name dropping of business and personal associates. Do we really care that he's pals with Harrison Ford or has made moon-eyes across the table with Winona Ryder? Save that for tarpon fishing trips with Hunter Thompson and Jack Nicholoson. Also, some of the contents of his backwoods pantry seem a bit fantastic, especially for those of us who live 400 miles away from the nearest specialty grocer. Fresh serranos, ground chiltepins, dried posole, etc are all instantly at his fingertips whenever necessary for an impromptu midday snack. It does liven up his writing, however.
I lived in the U.P. for many years, but never heard of him till I moved to New York and discovered his books and magazine writing. An amateur food writer? I beg to disagree. If measured by how badly he makes you want to frequent the dives (even more than the four star restaurants) to try the meals and experience the ambience he so deliciously describes, then he is the best of food writers. He also solved a mystery my husband and I both suffered from - gout! This book is a steal at any price, and a joy to read for food and wine lovers.
He also often equates food with sex. In his novel the "English Major" he has his character eat a steak in a Montana diner that's downright arousing. "My porterhouse had a labial rose rareness and I thought about how things get confused with desire."
In another of his stories, "The Great Leader," a character favors menudo, a Mexican dish made with tripe, because as he says, "the labial texture made him horny."
Harrison also likes to quantify his food. His main character in "The English Major" has the best French fries of his life at that same diner in Montana. Seven is the number of whiskeys another character in another book prefers to have in one sitting. At a tavern near Casper, Wyoming, one character enjoys "one of the top five burgers of his life in the category unfrozen half-pound patty."
As you might expect food is also classified and equated with sexual desire in a number of the essays in "The Raw and Cooked," this collection of Harrison food writing which is mainly reprinted from columns he wrote for "Esquire" and other magazines.
Everything he does and experiences, Harrison approaches with gusto, even more so with food and food writing. For him, food is an emotional experience that is often transcendent. Mornings herald a new day to enjoy because he can eat once again. For Harrison just as with Proust, food can also bring on an epiphany.
He often becomes philosophical, "On long road trips, I have a weakness for biscuits with sausage gravy, a nutritional holocaust unless you're bucking bales or hand-digging well pits. When I order this dish, covering it with a fine pinkish haze of Tabasco, I remind myself that the following day is a fresh start."
That's from "Cooking Your Life," an essay about the connections food has with memories. It's my favorite of his forty-odd ruminations. And for me it evokes the Saturday morning Grits and Gravy special at Friederick's Family Restaurant in Fennimore, Wis., which makes it to my personal Top Ten List and where they always make sure to keep their crash cart fully charged.
Food, sorry to say, has given Harrison a nagging case of (the) gout. Food, luckily, is also the inspiration for this collected volume that is satisfying in way not easily described. Plus there's a killer recipe for meatballs that will become for you, as it is for Harrison, not only a balm but also a food nostrum well worth partaking.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
read his poetry, many novels and novellas, essays. another dead genius whom i will always miss.