Yes, it’s true. I have a book deal.
Official news came out in Publisher’s Marketplace this morning, and Eat Me Daily broke the news to the food world soon afterwards.
Needless to say I am pretty psyched about this whole thing, especially as I had been as quiet as I could about the prospect until it actually happened. (Didn’t want to jinx anything.) Writing a book has been something I’ve wanted to do since my early 20s, and I gotta say the reality is as good as the fantasy I’d harbored for more than a decade.
First the mechanics: I signed with Rodale Press, my editor is Pam Krauss and the book is tentatively slated for release in the first part of 2011. The working title is Honest Food: Finding the Forgotten Feast.
The back story: It began early this year with my nomination for a James Beard Foundation award for Best Food Blog. I did not win (my friends at Sunset did), but even before the awards ceremony I began getting calls from literary agents wondering if I had “representation.” I kept wanting to say something like, “Hay-ll yes, you damn right I rep-ree-zent!” But I didn’t. (thankfully.) Instead I politely said “no” and asked to hear more.
Now the idea of several agents calling and wanting to represent me was at once flattering and ironic. Nearly a decade ago I wrote a political novel set around Virginia’s legislature (the book was about how the Old South is still very much alive, despite the commonwealth’s New South veneer) and tried mightily to find an agent who would help me find a publisher for the thing. Nada. Not even a listen. So I shelved the manuscript and moved on.
Flash forward and here I was in the enviable position of choosing agents. Most were good, although one I declined with a rejection letter that was almost word-for-word what an agent had sent to me back in 2000. Have to admit that was fun. But I finally went with the duo of Lydia Wills and Jason Yarn at Paradigm. Why? Mostly I just liked them the most, and chemistry matters in any creative business. But they’re also interested in a lot of opportunities outside straight-up book publishing, and I like that, too.
I wrote a proposal in May and Lydia and Jason sent it out. I wound up with three good offers – again, an enviable position – and liked what Rodale had in mind best. (And yes, I got an advance. No, I am not telling you how much. Suffice to say I will be keeping my day job.)
Enough backstory. What the hell will this book be about?
At its core, Honest Food will be about my adventures through this edible world – as well as a guide to help others become more active participants in what they feed themselves and their families. Honest food is all around us: We just need to look for it.
Americans used to be able to cook, and Americans used to eat a far more diverse array of foods that they do now in this Age of Corn. When even lamb and duck are considered by many to be exotic, we have a problem. My goal is to offer an alternative, to open to those willing to walk with me a wider world of edible options. Mercifully, Americans are beginning to cook seriously again, though this will not be a book about basic cooking skills, nor will it dwell on those foods commonly seen in supermarkets – although many of the better mega-marts are starting to carry things like squab and cardoons and wild mushrooms, making my recipes a bit more accessible.
Which brings me to this point: Honest food does not have to be plucked from a tree, reeled in from a boat or shot from the sky. Honest food means knowing what is in your food and knowing where it came from. I buy domestic pork from a local hog farmer who raises his Berkshires humanely, lets them grow fatter, and kills them far later than any factory-farmed pig. I’ve bought lambs and goats from farmers I know and trust. I am a regular at several farmer’s markets. And yes, I still shop in supermarkets, too, largely for dairy products, salt, sugar, grains and beer.
What I hope to achieve with this book is to help show people that foraged, fished and hunted food can easily be integrated into an otherwise typical life. After all, I too have a day job I intend to keep. All you need is a sack and some scissors to turn a walk in the woods into a foraging trip. And what better way to be sure the meat and fish you eat is free of hormones and antibiotics, that it led as good a life as it could have, than to hunt, fish or raise it yourself?
Will there be recipes? You bet. How many remains to be seen.
And regular readers of this space need not worry: I am not simply cobbling together all my old blog posts into a book. You will definitely see some of the same topics I write about here, but Honest Food will go deeper, be more helpful for those looking to get started on these endeavors, be less regional in focus (I’ve lived all over the country, so the book will not be California-centric.) and will – I hope – not only tell readers how to hunt or fish or forage wild greens, but will also tell them why they should bother in the first place.
That’s my hope. Now it’s time to get crackin’. Wish me luck!