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The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine: How I Spent a Year in the American Wild to Re-create a Feast from the ClassicRecipes of French Master Chef Auguste Escoffier

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When outdoorsman, avid hunter, and nature writer Steven Rinella stumbles upon Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 milestone Le Guide Culinaire, he’s inspired to assemble an unusual feast: a forty-five-course meal born entirely of Escoffier’s esoteric wild game recipes. Over the course of one unforgettable year, he steadily procures his ingredients—fishing for stingrays in Florida, When outdoorsman, avid hunter, and nature writer Steven Rinella stumbles upon Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 milestone Le Guide Culinaire, he’s inspired to assemble an unusual feast: a forty-five-course meal born entirely of Escoffier’s esoteric wild game recipes. Over the course of one unforgettable year, he steadily procures his ingredients—fishing for stingrays in Florida, hunting mountain goats in Alaska, flying to Michigan to obtain a fifteen-pound snapping turtle—and encountering one colorful character after another. And as he introduces his vegetarian girlfriend to a huntsman’s lifestyle, Rinella must also come to terms with the loss of his lifelong mentor—his father. An absorbing account of one man’s relationship with family, friends, food, and the natural world, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine is a rollicking tale of the American wild and its spoils.   Praise for The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine   “If Jack Kerouac had hung out with Julia Child instead of Neal Cassady, this book might have been written fifty years ago. . . . Steven Rinella brings bohemian flair and flashes of poetic sensibility to his picaresque tale of a man, a cookbook, and the culinary open road.”—The Wall Street Journal   “If you rue the ‘depersonalization of food production,’ or you’re tired of chemical ingredients, [Rinella] will make you howl.”—Los Angeles Times   “A walk on the wild side of hunting and gathering, sure to repel a few professional food sissies but attract many more with its sheer in-your-face energy and fine storytelling.”—Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall   “[A] warped, wonderful memoir of cooking and eating . . . [Rinella] recounts these madcap wilderness adventures with delicious verve and charm.”—Men’s Journal From the Trade Paperback edition.


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When outdoorsman, avid hunter, and nature writer Steven Rinella stumbles upon Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 milestone Le Guide Culinaire, he’s inspired to assemble an unusual feast: a forty-five-course meal born entirely of Escoffier’s esoteric wild game recipes. Over the course of one unforgettable year, he steadily procures his ingredients—fishing for stingrays in Florida, When outdoorsman, avid hunter, and nature writer Steven Rinella stumbles upon Auguste Escoffier’s 1903 milestone Le Guide Culinaire, he’s inspired to assemble an unusual feast: a forty-five-course meal born entirely of Escoffier’s esoteric wild game recipes. Over the course of one unforgettable year, he steadily procures his ingredients—fishing for stingrays in Florida, hunting mountain goats in Alaska, flying to Michigan to obtain a fifteen-pound snapping turtle—and encountering one colorful character after another. And as he introduces his vegetarian girlfriend to a huntsman’s lifestyle, Rinella must also come to terms with the loss of his lifelong mentor—his father. An absorbing account of one man’s relationship with family, friends, food, and the natural world, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine is a rollicking tale of the American wild and its spoils.   Praise for The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine   “If Jack Kerouac had hung out with Julia Child instead of Neal Cassady, this book might have been written fifty years ago. . . . Steven Rinella brings bohemian flair and flashes of poetic sensibility to his picaresque tale of a man, a cookbook, and the culinary open road.”—The Wall Street Journal   “If you rue the ‘depersonalization of food production,’ or you’re tired of chemical ingredients, [Rinella] will make you howl.”—Los Angeles Times   “A walk on the wild side of hunting and gathering, sure to repel a few professional food sissies but attract many more with its sheer in-your-face energy and fine storytelling.”—Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall   “[A] warped, wonderful memoir of cooking and eating . . . [Rinella] recounts these madcap wilderness adventures with delicious verve and charm.”—Men’s Journal From the Trade Paperback edition.

30 review for The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine: How I Spent a Year in the American Wild to Re-create a Feast from the ClassicRecipes of French Master Chef Auguste Escoffier

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gaulding

    I loved this book. This is one of the top three books I've read this year (2008). Rinella is a remarkable writer. The book is full of humor and occasional sadness/melancholy. But it is always compelling. I am not a hunter nor do I really support hunting. After reading this book I will have to rethink my strict liberal perspective about hunting. Although it does graphically discuss killing it was never gratuitous and surprisingly didn't ever upset or repulse me. The book is also remarkable in the I loved this book. This is one of the top three books I've read this year (2008). Rinella is a remarkable writer. The book is full of humor and occasional sadness/melancholy. But it is always compelling. I am not a hunter nor do I really support hunting. After reading this book I will have to rethink my strict liberal perspective about hunting. Although it does graphically discuss killing it was never gratuitous and surprisingly didn't ever upset or repulse me. The book is also remarkable in the historical perspectives that Rinella brings to both haute cuisine, wild game hunting, and the various locales that he visits. Although the story occurs over a one year period and the author's scavenging is restricted to the US, Rinella weaves in his other global travels. I thoroughly enjoyed Julie & Julia by Julie Powell which had a very similar "mission" (Julie Powell sets out in one-year to cook all of the recipes in Julia Childs' Mastering the Art of French Cooking). Rinella commits himself to spending one-year gathering the ingredients he needs to cook 45-50 recipes from Auguste Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire for a three-day event. The interesting thing about Rinella's book is that most of the recipes require main ingredients that you can't buy. The author is a hunter and fisherman who has spent most of his life cooking and eating only food that he has "scavenged" from Mother Nature. But Escoffier's ingredients frequently challenge Rinella's expert gathering skills (as in squab, which is a baby pigeon). I suspect some people will object to this book for political correctness, but I hope they aren't so narrow-minded that they cannot give this book a try. The author is such a talented writer and story-teller and everyone should benefit from this profoundly great book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Excellent, fun read. Very well written. I love ambitious concepts well-executed. Rinella set out to create a 3-day Thanksgiving feast with 40+ dishes from Escoffier's original cookbook, but with ingredients sourced entirely from hunting, fishing, and scavenging. Rinella traveled all over America to collect the ingredients to his meal, providing him with a fantastic range of stories to write about. More than the adventure, Rinella is thoughtful, empathetic, and humble. I've since watched him host Excellent, fun read. Very well written. I love ambitious concepts well-executed. Rinella set out to create a 3-day Thanksgiving feast with 40+ dishes from Escoffier's original cookbook, but with ingredients sourced entirely from hunting, fishing, and scavenging. Rinella traveled all over America to collect the ingredients to his meal, providing him with a fantastic range of stories to write about. More than the adventure, Rinella is thoughtful, empathetic, and humble. I've since watched him host Meat Eater (seasons 5-7 on Netflix right now!), and he's a guy that's easy to like. Sounds cheesy, but he's just a good person. And that comes through in his writing. In its own way, this book is very much a spiritual cousin to River Cottage.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Felisa Rosa

    An avid hunter and fisherman stumbles across Le Guide Culinaire, the masterwork of the legendary French chef Augueste Escoffier, who cooked for Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Duke of Orleans, Queen Victoria, and the Shah of Persia. In reading through the recipes he notices that scads of the required wild ingredients are no longer available for purchase, so he decides to scavenge their American equivalents and prepare and elaborate feast for his friends and hunting buddies. The Scavenger's Guide to Haute An avid hunter and fisherman stumbles across Le Guide Culinaire, the masterwork of the legendary French chef Augueste Escoffier, who cooked for Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Duke of Orleans, Queen Victoria, and the Shah of Persia. In reading through the recipes he notices that scads of the required wild ingredients are no longer available for purchase, so he decides to scavenge their American equivalents and prepare and elaborate feast for his friends and hunting buddies. The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine is the story of his year-long food gathering adventure. Rinella's writing is vivid, matter-of-fact, and funny. Most of his inventive similes are effective, but occasionally he'll go too far and, when coupled with a few expository lines on what he learned from an experience, the passage will momentarily evoke an unusually creative high school essay. Surprisingly, these awkward moments don't mar the book--instead they are endearing reminders of Rinella's excitement about the subject. I share Rinella's obsession with meat, so I read with interest his detailed descriptions of capturing and dressing animals. I was a little disappointed he didn't gather any other types of wild ingredients, and I would have enjoyed reading more about the actual cooking process. He does devote several chapters to preparing and eating the feast, but most of the book is about procuring meat. As I am a cook and not a hunter, I found the chapters on cooking more personally useful, though I did enjoy reading his hunting tips.(Some part of me still retains my childhood fantasy that I will one day run away and live in a hollow tree and be forced to trap my own food using ingenious methods. I file away ideas for my future survival.) This book is recommended, particularly if you enjoy reading about food or the outdoors.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chelan

    I love this book. I think Rinella provide great prospective and insight on hunting, conservation and food.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    If you’ve read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, you understand how challenging recreating dishes from old recipe books can be. The Scavenger’s Guide is Julie’s book with wading boots on its feet and a hunting rifle in its hands. Mr. Rinella is a dedicated and devoted hunter, someone who hunts meat for its food and has endured all sorts of inclement weather as well as the prerequisite adherence to hunting and fishing laws and regulations to nab his prey. He has a healthy respect for the animals If you’ve read Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, you understand how challenging recreating dishes from old recipe books can be. The Scavenger’s Guide is Julie’s book with wading boots on its feet and a hunting rifle in its hands. Mr. Rinella is a dedicated and devoted hunter, someone who hunts meat for its food and has endured all sorts of inclement weather as well as the prerequisite adherence to hunting and fishing laws and regulations to nab his prey. He has a healthy respect for the animals he kills and an expert’s eye for detail when it comes to capturing them and preparing them for the table. He also seems to be a devout trencherman, rarely shying away from eating a dish. In this novel, Mr. Rinella got his hands on Le Guide Culinaire by Georges Auguste Escoffier, one of the most famous cooks who ever lived. Escoffier had a Frenchman’s eye and pallet when it came to cooking and he cooked almost everything that passed through his kitchens. Mr. Rinella rose to the challenge and decided to cook the dishes in this cookbook into an epic, unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime, three-day Thanksgiving banquet for his friends and family. What follows is a book that is part memoir, travelog, hunting guide and historical document. Mr. Rinella has a unusual way with words and odd juxtapositions of phrases that capture the imagination. His graphic detailing of what he does with the beasts he catches is not for the squeamish or those dedicated to veganism. As a point of fact, he tried to get his girlfriend (who “struggled” with her vegetarianism) to try a meat dish or two. He wasn’t being a jerk about it; but he would invite her to try something…and he stopped keeping her from going into the kitchen when he was preparing an animal for the platter. If there is one thing I regret, it’s the lack of pictures. I would have welcomed color photograph inserts of Mr. Rinella preparing some of his dishes. Perhaps he didn’t think of it. Perhaps he felt that, like Mr. Escoffier’s book, the addition of photographs would have made his own book the size of an encyclopedia. The book is fun and funny, fascinating and never dull. It made me itch to get my hands on Escoffier’s book. It resurrected my desire to try exotic dishes. Having tasted pigeon, cuisses de grenouille (that’s frog’s legs, people), veal and escargot, I often long for other fare that isn’t necessarily on the menu and Mr. Rinella’s book has reawakened that longing. I may never make turtle soup but I will look for it on the menu. Bon appétit!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roy

    Steven Rinella's "Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine" is not a cookbook, and that's what makes it great. Throughout Rinella's year-long journey to recreate many of the recipes in Escoffier's "le Guide Cuilinaire", Rinella recounts his adventures through the North American wilderness, including backcountry Montana and Alaska as well as the alleyways behind bars in Montana - with Escoffier's wild game feast as an endgame. As much as this memoir is about food and scavenging in America, it is just Steven Rinella's "Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine" is not a cookbook, and that's what makes it great. Throughout Rinella's year-long journey to recreate many of the recipes in Escoffier's "le Guide Cuilinaire", Rinella recounts his adventures through the North American wilderness, including backcountry Montana and Alaska as well as the alleyways behind bars in Montana - with Escoffier's wild game feast as an endgame. As much as this memoir is about food and scavenging in America, it is just as much about family, friendship, love and companionship. When troubled with parts of the feast, including strange ingredients to Americans such as carp, English sparrows and eels, he consults with regional experts and details with great finesse and beauty not just their trades like building eel weirs or sparrow traps, but their lives, relations and hardships that have made them the way they are. Regardless of your interest in hunting and fishing and scavenging or meat-eating in general, "The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine" rises above as a truly unique and important work in American non-fiction in a rapidly dying lifestyle.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Cox

    If someone can read this book without being imparted a deep seated desire to eat an infant pigeon then they are a better person than I. Seriously these damn pigeons (squab if we're going to use our language precisely) are like the magnum opus, not the most ambitious dish but one that demanded unwavering perseverance and unmatched nest robbing abilities. Anyways that being said, The Scavenger's Guide takes the cake, my favorite story by Rinella. The back drop of Escoffiers "Le Guide Culinaire" If someone can read this book without being imparted a deep seated desire to eat an infant pigeon then they are a better person than I. Seriously these damn pigeons (squab if we're going to use our language precisely) are like the magnum opus, not the most ambitious dish but one that demanded unwavering perseverance and unmatched nest robbing abilities. Anyways that being said, The Scavenger's Guide takes the cake, my favorite story by Rinella. The back drop of Escoffiers "Le Guide Culinaire" (or simply "leh geed" for the cool kids) is perfect for telling an impressive array of tales about gathering/killing/harvesting/finding the necessary and often obscure bits and pieces that haute cuisine demands. This search, nah- this Quest, takes us all sorts of exotic places like Michigan. And Thermopolis, which sounds like it would be in Greece given the origins of the name being entirely Greek (Thermo-Hot, Polis-City) but is actually in central Wyoming. Trigger Warning: People who love baby pigeons.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    Highly entertaining and incredibly informative read on the history of French haute cuisine as explored through the eyes of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get, American outdoorsman Steven Rinella. This is so much more than an adventurer's account of hunting for elusive, haute cuisine ingredients in modern-day USA, in order to make an unforgettable food experience for his friends and family. It is most importantly a heartfelt tribute to the inner exploration of self and one's relationship to his Highly entertaining and incredibly informative read on the history of French haute cuisine as explored through the eyes of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get, American outdoorsman Steven Rinella. This is so much more than an adventurer's account of hunting for elusive, haute cuisine ingredients in modern-day USA, in order to make an unforgettable food experience for his friends and family. It is most importantly a heartfelt tribute to the inner exploration of self and one's relationship to his environment; it makes a fierce argument for the conservation of native wildlife and open land, as well as offering plenty of reasons to keep up the preservation and appreciation of culture across the ages. I found myself hearing Rinella's voice in my head as I reading the whole book, after a *lot* of binge-watching his equally unforgettable show MeatEater this past year.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Steve Rinella is perplexing. He talks and acts like a good ol' boy except when he casually references obscure American history or esoteric animal biology. He writes books, makes TV shows, and does it by accomplishing feats of endurance and complexity you'd think would be all that could occupy a human being. And the really perplexing part is he does it all really, really well. I don't get it at all. This is a pretty great book for illustrating all of that and I rcommend it to anyone who has a Steve Rinella is perplexing. He talks and acts like a good ol' boy except when he casually references obscure American history or esoteric animal biology. He writes books, makes TV shows, and does it by accomplishing feats of endurance and complexity you'd think would be all that could occupy a human being. And the really perplexing part is he does it all really, really well. I don't get it at all. This is a pretty great book for illustrating all of that and I rcommend it to anyone who has a serious interest in what their food is and could be because most of all Mr. Rinella is a spokesman for what we eat, how we can eat better and why we should eat different. But he does it, again perlexingly, against a backdrop of gritty jetsetting to faraway Alaska and through the logistics of fashioning a frog gig.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    Such a fun story of a a year's worth of hunting, fishing, gathering, and raising all of the ingredients for a 45-course Thanksgiving feast pulled out of a 120-year-old French cookbook. No fried fish or deer chili here. Baby pigeon poached in an antelope bladder? Check. Minced carp with a fancy French name? Check. Vegetarian girlfriend? Also check. I've never had this much fun reading a nonfiction book. Definitely a favorite this year.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Steven Rinella, and outdoorsman, hunter, and terrific writer, takes on a yearlong quest to produce a 3 day feast of recipes fro Auguste Escoffier's 1800's cooking Bible, Le Guide Culinaire. Did you ever wonder how to butcher a snapping turtle? How to catch eel in a weir? How to fit a duck in a pig's bladder for poaching? This is the book for you, because believe me, you want to know these things.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matt Norville

    I've read most of mr. Vanilla's works. It reads like this Steve Vanilla's most honest and personal book. It is a great example of how a close death can inspire someone to take something every day and rework it into something inspirational. Hard work, focus, reflection and patience seem to be constant themes throughout.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Robert Van buhler iii

    Very intelligent author, living life as he chooses. Kind of free ranging description of how he employs the recipes of the famous French Chef August Escoffier with North American game instead of traditional European ingredients. The whole year is capped off with the banquet. Check out his Youtube videos.

  14. 5 out of 5

    April

    This book offered great perspective on humans' relationship to food, and it started very strong, unfortunately it turned out quite boring. The narrative would cut out for aimless rambles. Other sections read as endless monotonous lists. The relationship with Diana also made me uncomfortable- the theme of trying to change his partner made Rinella very unlikeable. Mediocre writing overall.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    An excellent reminder of the diversity of obtaining, preparing, and eating food - especially meats. This is the context of a reminder of how much our relationship to food has changed since WWI ... and of how we can learn to use the past.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Yet another insightful book written by Steven Rinella, who effortlessly weaves casual language and humor into an intellectual recollection of his year-long journey to produce a grand, eye-opening 3-day feast among his friends.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth Poirier

    I have read many of Steven Rinella's books he brings story telling with a hunter's background with an insightfulness that make his books easy to read. Any cook or aspiring chef, amateur or professional would enjoy this read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Augusta

    Great book! I really enjoyed this read! Well written and very interesting with lots of little "things you never knew" sprinkled throughout.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Much better than meateater.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Should’ve included pictures and I would’ve been sold!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Holly Zahn manske

    Very informative and very entertaining!!! Loved it!!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cory Arnold

    A fun adventure of fishing,hunting,scavenging and cooking with a good sense of humor in it.Easy enjoyable read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    M

    I love to cook and my husband is an avid hunter, so reading Rinella’s adventures in assembling his grand wild game feast we’re fascinating. I’m ready to take up frog gigging now.

  24. 5 out of 5

    JKR

    Felt like binge-watching an entire season of Meat Eater. Which is great.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tim Harris

    One of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a while, probably since American Buffalo. I think this is my favorite Rinella book, it includes the adventures of hunting and fishing along with the preparation of food, all told with a lot of humor. I could totally relate to his pigeon dealings having raised pigeons for training my dog over the past year and this year for me has been an adventure in cooking wild game. If you like food or gathering your own food this is a must read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tripp

    After I gushed about Steven Rinella's American Buffalo, the wonderful Citizen Reader said the book was good and all, but I should really read the Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine. Well that surprised me as I thought it would be tough to top Buffalo. Having now read the earlier Scavenger, I can see where she is coming from. I won't say I think it is better overall, as I think the books are both so good it is hard to say which is better, but it is built better in certain ways. Buffalo is about After I gushed about Steven Rinella's American Buffalo, the wonderful Citizen Reader said the book was good and all, but I should really read the Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine. Well that surprised me as I thought it would be tough to top Buffalo. Having now read the earlier Scavenger, I can see where she is coming from. I won't say I think it is better overall, as I think the books are both so good it is hard to say which is better, but it is built better in certain ways. Buffalo is about Rinella's fascination with a buffalo, which leads him on a quest to learn more about them and eventually to hunt one. The bit about hunting will probably stop some readers in their tracks, but he convincingly argues that if you are going to eat meat, it is best to get it yourself rather than relying on industrial sources. He does an excellent job weaving in a variety of information but keeping the story focused on his hunt. Scavenger benefits from Rinella's telling a variety of stories that range from madcap to touching. Having stumbled upon Escoffier's massive cookbook, he decides to create a feast out of the animals and animal parts that American tables rarely see. Not only will he serve them, but he will find them himself. Just as in American Buffalo, Rinella shows himself as a capable, but self deprecating hunter, not afraid to tell you of fears or his shame, as when wonders if he is too old to hunt frogs in a chilly marsh. The stories are wonderful and I think they are better tales than the ones told in American Buffalo. His quest to capture and keep pigeons so that he can breed them and eat their babies runs into all the trouble you might expect including helpers that come to love the birds and refuse to give them up for butchery. Where American Buffalo rises above the Scavenger's Guide is in its' more thoughtful meditations on how we can stay connected with nature. Read both of these books, I have not seen their like.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Field and Stream meets Julie and Julia. Rinella sets himself a goal of hunting and fishing for the ingredients of a grand feast based on Escoffier's Guide Cuilinaire; the book is the story of his outdoor excursions, and his encounters with assorted folks who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of sparrow-trapping, eel-smoking, or subsistence fishing. The actual cooking given short shrift, which is disappointing, but probably for the best in terms of the overall length and flow of the book. Field and Stream meets Julie and Julia. Rinella sets himself a goal of hunting and fishing for the ingredients of a grand feast based on Escoffier's Guide Cuilinaire; the book is the story of his outdoor excursions, and his encounters with assorted folks who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of sparrow-trapping, eel-smoking, or subsistence fishing. The actual cooking given short shrift, which is disappointing, but probably for the best in terms of the overall length and flow of the book. Rinella skillfully weaves his chapters together with a couple of ongoing threads of conflict: Will he ever get a squab? Will his vegetarian girlfriend become a meat-eater? Since the last couple of memoirs I've read suffered from the lack of large-scale narrative arc, it was a relief to be reminded that you can write this kind of book as a book, rather than as an essay collection. The pigeon-hunting and pigeon-raising stories were great. The girlfriend stuff, though... Rinella might be a skilled writer but I have no idea what his girlfriend saw in him; whenever he talks about their relationship, or her vegetarianism, or his ceaseless meat-related wheedling and manipulation, he comes off as a total jerk. Actually, whenever he writes about women, he comes off as a jerk - he frequently introduces female characters with a paean to their physical appearance and then moves to a discussion of how silly it is when they talk. In a book devoted to detailed discussions of historical butchering practices, I had to get my gross-outs from sexism? Bleah.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sandy D.

    Interesting, but a bit uneven. This young guy who grew up in Michigan with a bunch of brothers (in family that does a lot of hunting and fishing) gets a copy of Escoffier's encyclopedic classic to French cuisine - Le Guide Culinaire (published in 1903). After a bad job making snapping turtle soup, he decides he needs to cook a feast using Escoffier's recipes and meats he has collected and hunted himself, with some help from friends. A huge variety of foods were used then - weird organs that get Interesting, but a bit uneven. This young guy who grew up in Michigan with a bunch of brothers (in family that does a lot of hunting and fishing) gets a copy of Escoffier's encyclopedic classic to French cuisine - Le Guide Culinaire (published in 1903). After a bad job making snapping turtle soup, he decides he needs to cook a feast using Escoffier's recipes and meats he has collected and hunted himself, with some help from friends. A huge variety of foods were used then - weird organs that get thrown away or turned into catfood today. And lots of foods we don't eat now - sparrows, squabs (baby pigeons), all kinds of weird fish, etc. So the author describes the year he spent collecting all of this stuff - gigging for bullfrogs in Michigan, hunting bears in Alaska, fishing for shrimp and eels and rays, hunting elk in Montana (where he lives with his girlfriend - a vegetarian), wild boars in California, climbing on top of air conditioners in back alleys in various towns in Montana trying to find baby pigeons. Rinella is not as skilled a writer as Anthony Bourdain, but if you like reading about unusual foods - and hunting - you'll probably enjoy this. I think this could have been fantastic if it had been edited a bit better - the narrative wanders a bit too much, and it gets confusing sometimes when he goes off on a tangent about his father and WWII and their food. I would love to have been at the 3-day feast that he served all of his friends at the end - with 45 courses.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Thorn

    i had expected more from this book, but they dealt thoroughly with all of the good parts on npr -- which is what motivated me to read it. sometimes there's better stuff in a book that they don't get around to talking about. not really the case here. i was disappointed to learn that part of rinella's goal in undertaking the 'project' was that he was trying to omni-(or carni-?)vore-ize his then-girlfriend, who was a vegetarian. i'm not a vegetarian at all -- not even close. i can even say that, i had expected more from this book, but they dealt thoroughly with all of the good parts on npr -- which is what motivated me to read it. sometimes there's better stuff in a book that they don't get around to talking about. not really the case here. i was disappointed to learn that part of rinella's goal in undertaking the 'project' was that he was trying to omni-(or carni-?)vore-ize his then-girlfriend, who was a vegetarian. i'm not a vegetarian at all -- not even close. i can even say that, having tried it briefly in my 20's, i've figured out that it's not my thing at all. but geez. i also feel pretty strongly that a person just shouldn't eat anything they don't want to eat. the arrogance of rinella to think he could singlehandedly change a major 'feature' of his girlfriend, and his lack of respect for her, kind of made me say, "huh?" this, mainly because he was telling the story himself. either he's totally unreflected, or totally honest. the book had entertaining passages, to be sure, and it was by no means a slog; in fact, even given my complaints, i feel like i might have liked it more if it had been longer. especially if rinella had talked more about his very interesting and most endearing family. maybe i read it too much on the heels of 'the omnivore's dilemma', which i loved. this is kind of a hard one to review. i can say, though, that this one is perhaps not for those who have food anxieties and are easily grossed out.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Wade

    I liked the author's adventures hunting and collecting game and other ingredients for the ultimate 45 course french dinner party (though the slight air of pretentiousness that introduced the book was a little off putting). Along the way we meet great characters; Floyd Van Ert the sparrow trapper, Ray Turner the Eel Man, friends Mark and Pooder and others. His exploits searching for frogs, snapping turtles and pigeons were great. “When I climbed up the ladder and got to the ledge [in the alley I liked the author's adventures hunting and collecting game and other ingredients for the ultimate 45 course french dinner party (though the slight air of pretentiousness that introduced the book was a little off putting). Along the way we meet great characters; Floyd Van Ert the sparrow trapper, Ray Turner the Eel Man, friends Mark and Pooder and others. His exploits searching for frogs, snapping turtles and pigeons were great. “When I climbed up the ladder and got to the ledge [in the alley behind an old brick hotel], I was greeted by two of the nicest, plumpest squabs I'd seen yet. They were still in the nest. As I lifted the squabs and tucked them into my pockets, I felt the familiar mixture of fear and excitement I got every time I went trespassing around town for pigeons in the middle of the night. I tried to come up with an appropriate thing to say if the hotel manager called the cops on us.” p 312. “Looking for a frog in this impenetrable lime green vegetation was like looking for a hay-colored needle in a haystack. I could hear frogs croaking all over the place. Whenever I heard one close by, I'd excitedly try to sneak up on it. I'd slowly part the vegetation, and then the frog would shut on up. It was like being at a concert that ends just when you're finally getting ready to dance.” p 176.

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