I am excited about finally going to get to meet my virtual friend, Langdon Cook. Langdon runs the blog Fat of the Land, and while I’ve just started writing my book, he has already finished his book about his foraging life, called, of course, “Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager.” Lang is coming to Sacramento next week for a book-signing event.
First off I need to give credit to photographer John Keatley for this portrait of Lang; it’s pretty awesome, and Keatley kindly gave me permission to use it here. If it looks familiar, it is because the image first appeared in Bon Appetit when the magazine did a short article on Lang last spring. (Click for more of Keatley’s photos.)
Why am I so jazzed? Well, for starters, Lang does a lot of similar things in his life that I do in mine, and, along with Canadian Kevin Kossowan, are the two blogs I read most often. Consider us the three amigos of foraging writer-gluttons. Lang’s specialties are seafood and mushrooms, which is a natural given that he lives in Seattle — the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the best fishing and mushroom hunting in the world.
He is an excellent fisherman and tidal-flat forager — a thing I dearly miss given that a) I was a champion at it when I lived on Long Island, and b) I never, never get to dug clams or drop crab pots or gather saltwort anymore. Yeah, I’m jealous.
But I shouldn’t really be, because Lang doesn’t hunt and really wants to. I should trade him ducks for geoducks and wild boar for boletes.
Lang is coming to Sacramento next week — Wednesday, November 4 at 6 p.m. to be exact — to sign his new book, sell a few copies (you can buy Fat of the Land online here.) and talk to guests at one of my favorite restaurants, Grange. Grange head Chef Michael Tuohy has planned a three-course menu inspired by Fat of the Land for $39. Details of the evening can be found here.
As an added bonus, I am hearing that another virtual friend, Ryan Adams from Nose to Tail at Home, will be in town for the event as well. Ryan is in the Bay Area for other business and says he’s planning to make the 90-minute trek inland to see me, Lang and eat some damn good food. Hear that, Chef Tuohy? Better have some offal on the menu…
On to Langdon’s book. I had this thing set up in my preorder queue on Amazon for months, but then he sent me a review copy. So sorry, Lang, hopefully I’ll make up for it by bringing you some business at Grange. Fat of the Land the book is very different from the blog. Both involve foraging, but that’s where the similarity ends.
FOTL the book is about Langdon’s transformation from a typical bachelor — mmm, Egg McMuffin, anyone? — to an off-the-grid, diehard gatherer, fisherman and mushroom expert with an increasingly sophisticated set of foraging and cooking skills. Think of it as a prequel to the blog.
Cook is not your typical Pacific Northwest dude. He attended both Phillips Exeter Academy and Middlebury College back East — schools I know well and took great pleasure in stomping as a public school track athlete in New Jersey and at the State University of New York. I’ll forgive Lang for his silver spoon education, because he seems to have cast off the airs those places wrap around you — if he ever had them at all.
Like many of us, Lang got into his passion, at least in part, for a woman. His girfriend (now wife) is Polish-Italian, and comes from a family that really understands food. They spent a time off the grid in Washington state, an experience that honed Lang’s fishing and foraging skills, and are now back in Seattle, the Land of Good Coffee and Salmon.
Fat of the Land is an intensely regional book, a journey through much of what makes the Pacific Northwest a forager’s — and an eater’s — paradise. From Dungeness crabs to chanterelles, salmon, steelhead trout, huckleberries and oysters, Lang has soaked himself in all of it. He even writes about the colossal Columbia River shad run, the only shad run bigger than our own here in Sacramento. And, in the interests of full disclosure, Lang includes one of my recipes for shad, one I learned back in Virginia.
The one hole in Lang’s experience is hunting. The Northwest has spectacular hunting — ducks, deer, elk, antelope, geese and grouse — and I’m making it my mission to introduce Lang to the pursuit; maybe that’ll be his second book. Get your hunter safety class finished, Lang!
Reading Fat of the Landalmost makes me wish we’d settled farther north. Almost. I still enjoy the more Mediterranean climate we have here in NorCal, where wine, wild ducks and tomatoes rule.
If any of you are close enough to make the trip to Grange on Nov. 4, I hope you can. I will be there, so will Lang, and there will be great food, great conversation and a great chance to compare notes, swap stories and plan new adventures. Hope to see y’all there!