Home. After nearly seven months on the road promoting my first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, I have returned to Sacramento for good. I’ve done everything I can to help make this book a success, and I have no regrets.
Quite the contrary. This has been a life-changing experience. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way, have had so many wonderful adventures and have seen so much of this nation that I will never be the same. I have emerged a little grayer around the temples, but definitely better person.
It has not been without cost. I drove more than 26,000 miles in my little white pickup between May and November, crossing the country four times. I came down with strep throat for the first time I can remember when I was in Richmond. I almost ran off the road several times, due to fatigue, weather or errant deer. I had to be “on” so much for so long it felt like one long out-of-body experience, as if I were watching myself from the outside. I ate too much road food, slept in basements, crack-den motels, and even in the front seat of my truck a few times.
I had one restaurant slated to do a book dinner that mysteriously canceled on me three days before the event. At another event, I had to come up with books at a moment’s notice when the bookstore that was supposed to sell them decided not to… three hours before the book dinner.
But most of all, I’ve had to fight fatigue. Since I returned home on Tuesday, I can’t shake this low-level tiredness that underlies everything I do. I am trying to sleep more and putter about the house, but it seems I’ve lost my ability to sit still. Hopefully it will return.
But would I do this all again? Absolutely.
I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a teenager, and when Rodale finally gave me my chance I was not going to let it slip. As a former distance runner, I always beat myself up whenever I felt like I’d left something on the track, that I might have pushed a little harder. I was not going to let this happen with my book tour. In the end, I did close to 50 events in 41 cities. We put on 29 wild food dinners — everything from a potluck in Detroit to near-mystical experiences in Michelin-starred palaces. Those dinners were the cornerstone of the tour, and they were everything I’d hoped they’d be.
One of my goals in all of this has been to show some very different kinds of people that they actually have something to talk about. A few of you know that I was a political reporter for 18 years before I started doing this full-time. I covered state legislatures, Congress and endless elections from city council to the presidency. But I left politics because it has become less about deal-making and more about shouting. I don’t like shouting.
Hunting, fishing and foraging fits into this political divide as well. I have plenty of readers who drive Fords and Chevys, shop at Cabela’s and typically vote Republican. I also have plenty of readers who drive hybrids, shop at REI and typically vote Democrat. In many cases, these folks rarely talk to each other. But at these book dinners, sitting cheek-by-jowl in close quarters, they did. And it did not take them long to learn that they were united on at least one thing: A love of nature, and of wild food.
One of my favorite moments of the tour was watching two neighboring tables in Billings talk shop. One table was clearly the REI set, the other was wearing more than a little camo, probably bought from the Cabela’s down the road. But when I came over to say hello, both tables were in deep conversation with each other, discussing the finer points of hunting mushrooms. It was a wonderful sight, and it was not an isolated incident.
Nor were the cases of extreme kindness shown to me by friends and strangers alike. I have a thousand debts to repay from this tour, to more people than I have the power to remember. Let me start by thanking Holly, who kept the home fires burning (and the cats fed) while I was gone.
To my fellow members of the Food Blogger Mafia, to Susan and Jaden and Langdon and Louisa and Gwen and all those others I’ve forgotten, I say thank you. Come to Sacramento and I’ll do my best to show you a good time.
To my fellow cooks, too numerous to count, I say keep doing God’s work, keep pushing and don’t fear to fail. I will try not to let you down on my end as I attempt to do the same. One special shout-out to Jonathon and Russ at Ludivine in Oklahoma City: That meal was so perfect, so memorable and so damn surprising that I will never forget it. Who knew you could get such great food in Oklahoma? That meal showed me that you don’t need to be in a “food city” like San Francisco or New York to do great work.
To my foraging and fishing and hunting buddies, Jamie and Jesse and Brian and Chris, Todd and the rest, I say tight lines and shoot straight! When you come out here, we will chase God’s creatures together.
Finally to my readers, I say this: I would be nothing without you. I am eternally in your debt for doing everything from buying my book and attending my events, to taking me hunting and fishing and foraging and even for putting me up in your homes. I am in awe of your generosity, and can only hope to repay the favor in the years to come. Thank you, from the core of my heart.
And now, after seven months, it’s time to rest.