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…With a Lot of Help from My Friends

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Hank Shaw signing books at IACP

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Everyone keeps telling me to buy a fistful of lottery tickets. In the past few days, I’ve been swamped with so much good luck I can barely keep track of it all.

  • On Thursday night I won the International Association of Culinary Professionals award for Best Blog for the second straight year.
  • A series of excellent stories about Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast have appeared in all  kinds of newspapers and blogs.
  • The book appears to be selling well, although I won’t really know for several weeks.
  • I did my first-ever book signing, and actually sold a few books.
  • And just today, none other than the New York Times printed a glowing review of my book. This is the Holy Grail of book reviews, and I was gobsmacked to even be mentioned, let alone get such good marks.

All this is far beyond my expectations. I honestly have no idea what might happen next; like I said last week, I am through the looking glass. But as I head into my first book dinner tonight, at FINO here in Austin, Texas, what I am most struck by is how little this all has to do with me, and how much it has to do with us.

Us. Yes, I may write Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, and I wrote “Hunt, Gather, Cook.” But it is the community that has grown up around this blog that has made the book so noteworthy. Without you, it would never have come close to cracking Amazon.com’s Top 325 books. Almost all of those sales were from you – Hunter Angler Gardener Cook readers - pre-ordering the book.

Without you I would be a lesser man. Your expertise has been invaluable in my own education. Every time I write, you chime in and write about your experiences with whatever game, wild plant or fish I happen to be obsessed with at the moment. I love to brag to other bloggers that my commenters are among the smartest in the blogosphere: In four years I have never had to put out a flame war, never had to deal with more than the occasional troll. You are constantly adding your knowledge to mine, and together we’ve made this little corner of the Internet something special.

The best, most satisfying piece of all this has come in the past few weeks, when I left my Northern California home and hit the road for parts unknown. I had not been in the Deep South before this trip, and had never spent any real time in Texas. But everywhere I’ve been I’ve met friends and readers eager to help me.

It started with Joe Bendis and Mike Niekro in Atlanta, who started as fishing buddies and ended as fast friends. Then there were the scores of my fellow food bloggers I got a chance to finally meet at BlogHer. In Florida I was treated royally by royalty: Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen – one of the largest food blogs in the world — let me crash in her spare room, organized a fishing trip and gave me the tips I needed to survive my first-ever TV appearance.

The very next day found me in Anniston, Alabama, where I did not know a soul. But I didn’t need to. Darryl Patton, one of the country’s best foragers, happily showed me around the woods near his home; more on my adventures with Darryl later. That night I traveled to Birmingham to eat at Bettola, where one of my readers, Chris Bennett, is a chef. I had a great meal. Next morning Chris, a budding forager himself, showed me around his family’s farm, where we found all sorts of wildlings scattered in the woods and fields.

David Hawkins picked up the generosity train from Bennett. Hawkins, a long-time friend of one of my Mississippi readers, agreed to organize a fishing trip to Bayou Lafourche near Grand Isle, Louisiana — where I had a spectacular day catching redfish and spotted sea trout with a guide named Chad Billiot.

Here in Texas, in town for the IACP conference, my old friends Paul and Ryan and my new friends Addie and Jesse have shown me around Austin, a city I could totally live in — if it weren’t so damn hot!

And tomorrow I head to Phoenix, Arizona, where I hope this happy trend continues. I have a book signing Tuesday, another TV appearance Wednesday morning, and my second big book dinner that evening.

I talked a lot with more experienced authors at the IACP conference this past weekend. Many told me how lonely and stressful life on the tour can be. Stressful I get. But lonely? Not with friends like this.

Thank you all. And to those friends I have yet to meet on this tour, see you soon!

24 responses to “…With a Lot of Help from My Friends”

  1. Barton

    Congrats on the nytimes review, you deserve success from your great work

  2. Warner

    Congrats on the Times Review. Have enjoyed the book.

  3. Becky

    Can’t wait for your Portland book signing! Congrats on the success and thanks!

  4. Suburban Bushwacker

    All richly deserved, keep going this is just the beginning
    SBW

  5. Jules

    I’ve signed up for the Half Moon Bay trip with you, and am looking forward to it. Can’t make it to the dinner the next night, but that’s OK. I’ll happily contribute my fish (and buy me some to take home on the dock.)

  6. Phillip

    Glad to hear it’s going so well, Hank. And if I could think of something to start a flame war while you’re gone, I’d do it just to keep things interesting.

  7. Buzzie

    I read the book from cover to cover – a good read even if you aren’t outdoorsy. Your book opens up new possibilities and gives a person something to think about. Gosh! You sure do know a lot!

  8. Nate @ House of Annie

    You are living the charmed life right now! Enjoy it.

  9. Paula

    I’m glad to hear that you’re doing so well and your book is too.

    Too bad you missed Oprah though.

    No?

  10. Steve

    Glad to hear things are going well. We who read your blog would expect nothing less. I do find it hard for someone from the the Central Valley complaining about the heat of another town, unless it’s the humidity of the South.

    Steve –stuck halfway between Fresno and Bakersfield

  11. Peter Arnold

    Anyone wanting to read the review, here is the link:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/books/review/book-review-summer-cookbook-roundup.html?pagewanted=3&sq=Hunt, Gather, cook&st=cse&scp=1

    It is on the rhird page, so don’t give up if you don’t find it at first. Great review, Hank, and well deserved congratulations!

  12. Joe Bendis

    Hank, it was our pleasure taking you “fishing” and I’m sure glad Michael could put us up in his beautiful home instead of the local 6. Todd certainly would have enjoyed the evening festivities if not for the tragedy. You deserve all the accolades my friend.

  13. Frog Mom

    That is an amazing review you have in the NY Times. Congratulations! I did write an Edible food chapter in my Bay Area family hiking guidebook (Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area) but that was before your book came out so it’s not part of my list. Ah, 2nd edition then! Would love to hook up with you on child-friendly wilderness recipes in the future. When you get back to NorCal, that is. Enjoy the rest of your tour!

  14. “A Week” | The Official Site of Chef Georgia Pellegrini | Food, Travel, Lifestyle, Hunting and Redefining Slow Food

    [...] then the next night? We went to celebrate Hank Shaw’s new book “Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.” Yes, more wonderful food. And I sat next to the most wonderful Texas farmer couple and found new [...]

  15. Kelly

    Congratulations on all your success, I’m really looking forward to reading the book!

  16. Chris

    Hank,
    Several of my fellow librarians here in Nashville know how I love to fish and attempt to hunt so when they asked me about your book after seeing the NYT review, well, they have all requested the book be purchased in their branches. Keep up the good work! And thanks for all the great lessons from you, Holly, and my fellow readers.

  17. Nathan Z

    Your book is a true delight! When you visit the Twin Cities here in MN I’ll be sure to get your signature!

    BTW – I ordered off Amazon and they wanted me to spend a little more money to give me free shipping…. so I bought the Sam Thayer book you recommended a year or two back. It’s ALSO fantastic!

    I made a forest sorrel (…backyard sorrel in my case) and micro-green arugula salad last night while doing yard/garden work and thought of your blog! ;)

  18. Carolyn Warfield

    Just thrilled on your behalf. You’ve shared with us and inspired us over the years–it is only fair that good will (and delicious food) come back to you. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures and see how they inspire you.

    (And I’m pimping your book all over the UC Davis community, btw.)

  19. Scampwalker

    Hank, thanks for showing my parents a wonderful evening at FINO on Sunday night. It will be a combination Mother’s Day/Dad’s birthday gift they won’t soon forget. Also, selfishly, thanks for signing a book for us… wish we could have made it. Seriously, if you get to Kansas, please let me show you a good, public land, upland hunt with some great bird dogs and fun company.

  20. Aida Mollenkamp

    Huge congrats for the NY Times review and the IACP award!

  21. BJE200XL

    Well man, congratulations on your kind-of-unexpected success. However, I wouldn’t say that the whole New York times thing was just luck… maybe a little bit, but at the end it was the awesome work you put in your book what really caught their attention.

    Once again, congratulations, and keep creating awesome and valuable content. That way you will not need “luck” for having success :D

  22. Chris S.

    Hank, congrats on the success of the tour so far. I’ve asked for the book as a Father’s Day gift. :)

  23. Susan in the Boonies

    That. is. awesome.

    Congratulations!

  24. Eli Moselle

    I found the site – luckily – one day as I was searching for home-made mustard recipes: instantly struck by the respect for, and love of, food. I am struck by your humility and wish only to take this time to say congratulations – it is WELL deserved. Whereas many great chefs release many great books with many great recipes and insights, I find both your blog and your book are distinguished by a sense of respect for the world around us. It raises consciousness of the creatures that make their way onto our plates, and gets us excited about food – tracing a linear connection from the forest to the pan. Thank you brother. Its exciting to see you succeed!

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