Jim Harrison is one of this country's most beloved writers, a muscular, brilliantly economic stylist with a salty wisdom. For more than twenty years, he has also been writing some of the best essays on food around, now collected in a volume that caused the Santa Fe New Mexican to exclaim: "To read this book is to come away convinced that Harrison is a flat-out genius -- one who devours life with intensity, living it roughly and full-scale, then distills his experiences into passionate, opinionated prose. Food, in this context, is more than food: It is a metaphor for life." From his legendary Smart and Esquire columns, to present-day pieces including a correspondence with French gourmet Gerard Oberle, fabulous pieces on food in France and America for Men's Journal, and a paean to the humble meatball, The Raw and the Cooked is a nine-course meal that will satisfy every appetite. "Our 'poet laureate of appetite' [Harrison] may be, but the collected essays here reflect much more." -- John Gamino, The Dallas Morning News "[A] culinary combo plate of Hunter S. Thompson, Ernest Hemingway, Julian Schnabel, and Sam Peckinpah...." -- Jane and Michael Stern, The New York Times Book Review "Jim Harrison is the Henry Miller of food writing. His passion is infectious." -- Jeffrey Trachtenberg, The Wall Street Journal
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
, 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