“I spend a lot of time thinking about food,” says Steven Rinella, author of The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine. “If I’m not thinking about food, there’s a good chance I’m out collecting it. I scrounge around in the mountains for huckleberries and I search riverbanks for wild asparagus.”
The Omnivore, who caught up with the paperback edition of this book recently, has a new role model. Rinella, who currently splits his time between New York and Alaska, writes for The New Yorker and Outside magazines, among others. He’s a world traveler, a very serious eater and a terrific writer, without any of the snobbery that often accompanies an interest in haute—or “high”—cuisine.
Several years ago, Rinella was looking for a recipe for snapping turtle, which, unlike the oceangoing variety, is ubiquitous and therefore legal and fair game, so to speak. A friend gave him a 100-year-old cookbook as a gift. It turned out to be Auguste Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire. Escoffier was called the king of chefs and was also the chef to kings—the king of Greece, for instance, and the emperors of Austria and Brazil, Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the Prince of Wales.
Paging through Escoffier, Rinella found recipes he could adapt for the fish and game he routinely “scavenged”—whitefish caviar, prawns in champagne aspic, glazed medallions of bighorn sheep, saddle of antelope, pheasants poached with walnuts, grilled squab with diable sauce, venison sausage and crayfish mousse. Suddenly, the prepackaged chicken, veal, beef and turkey so widely available in supermarkets lost its luster, and Rinella set out over the span of one year to gather enough foodstuffs on his own to prepare a Thanksgiving feast of feasts for his friends.
Rinella recounts the ultimate global grocery run, taking us to the Chugach mountains of Alaska, the beaches of Florida, the jungles of the Philippines, the wilds of Maine, the peaks of Colorado, the coast of Washington State, remote Argentina, rugged Wyoming, the deserts of California, even New York state.
Mind you, this is not a book about someone trying to one-up other adventurous eaters by scarfing down insects, snakes or the potentially fatal Japanese pufferfish, fugu. This book is the ultimate travelogue—an odyssey, a pilgrimage, a memoir and a search for man’s inner nature, all wrapped into one volume—one that sure made me homesick and hungry for the fried quail my momma used to cook.
Note: This will be the last post from Delta Sky magazine until the magazine’s relaunch on April 1st. Let us know what you’d like to see from our magazine in 2009 and beyond!