Book Review of
The Mushroom Hunters
Within the dark corners of America’s forests grow culinary treasures. Chefs pay top dollar to showcase these elusive and beguiling ingredients on their menus. Whether dressing up a filet mignon with smoky morels or shaving luxurious white truffles over pasta, the most elegant restaurants across the country now feature an abundance of wild mushrooms.
The mushroom hunters, by contrast, are a rough lot. They live in the wilderness and move with the seasons. Motivated by Gold Rush desires, they haul improbable quantities of fungi from the woods for cash. Langdon Cook embeds himself in this shadowy subculture, reporting from both rural fringes and big-city eateries with the flair of a novelist, uncovering along the way what might be the last gasp of frontier-style capitalism.
Meet Doug, an ex-logger and crabber—now an itinerant mushroom picker trying to pay his bills and stay out of trouble; and Jeremy, a former cook turned wild food entrepreneur, crisscrossing the continent to build a business amid cutthroat competition; their friend Matt, an up-and-coming chef whose kitchen alchemy is turning heads; and the woman who inspires them all.
Rich with the science and lore of edible fungi—from seductive chanterelles to exotic porcini—The Mushroom Hunters is equal parts gonzo travelogue and culinary history lesson, a rollicking, character-driven tour through a world that is by turns secretive, dangerous, and tragically Ame
I grew up in a small logging town, in the middle of nowhere, near the NW coast range of Oregon. The area I grew up in and that my family still live in are the areas mentioned in The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook. In fact I grew up picking mushrooms back in the 1980’s when mushroom picking was just becoming popular. We walked the forests and logging roads picking mushrooms. We sold them to a mushroom buyer that lived a mile or so down the road. He was a friend of my parents, and I went to school with his son. It was small town rural living.
Mushroom picking has changed drastically since my family picked and sold them back in the 1980’s. In fact I had no idea how much it has changed until I read this book, but this book brought back so many memories. It talks about the climate and terrain of western Washington and Oregon. It talks about how to find mushrooms. It talks about the rainy days of walking up and down the hills while climbing over fallen trees and tree stumps. Those are all things that I remember well.
The Mushroom Hunters also talks about the darker side of modern day mushroom hunter like the quest to get the best mushrooms before everyone else. It also goes into detail about the type of people that pick mushrooms and why they pick them.
This book is not for everyone, but if you love books about food, how food gets to your table, or want to know more about the Pacific Northwest, this is a great book.