I’m pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of my new book, The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America. The book goes on sale September 10—but it’s now available for pre-order at a bookstore near you, including Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.
Some of you may have guessed what I was up to with all the mushroom-related blog posts in recent years (not to mention my rather erratic blogging record of late). The idea for The Mushroom Hunters came to me while harvesting morels in July, 2007, during an episode that’s briefly recounted in my first book, Fat of the Land. I was picking in the North Cascades of Washington State near the Canadian border, in one of the last truly wild regions of the Lower 48, home to wolves and grizzlies. A friend and I heard voices in the woods. Moments later we came face-to-face with two men, both wearing impossibly large packs filled with morels, maybe eighty pounds apiece. They stared at us and we stared at them. Nothing was said. Then, just like that, they turned on their heels and disappeared back into the timber. It was like a bigfoot sighting!
After that I was determined to infiltrate the commercial wild mushroom trade, a scrappy, mostly hidden and itinerant enterprise that follows the mushroom flushes year-round, with echoes of Wild West frontier-style capitalism and Gold Rush days gone by. I was amazed that no one had ever written a book-length account of it, and was fortunate to meet a number of pickers and buyers who allowed me into their world. Over the next few years I traveled from my home in Seattle as far north as Yukon Territory and, come winter, camped with pickers on the Lost Coast of California. I went to Oregon and British Columbia, to Michigan, Montana, Colorado, and New York City, among other places, to follow the invisible food chain from patch to plate. I got on “the mushroom trail” and embedded myself in a subculture that is, for better or worse, indelibly American.
The Mushroom Hunters is the result of thousands of hours spent with pickers, buyers, and chefs; hundreds of hours of taped interviews; and my own compulsion to weave this first-hand material into a narrative that readers can appreciate, whether or not they’ve ever tasted a wild mushroom or even taken a walk in the woods.
Here’s what early readers are saying:
“With superb detail and intrepid research, Langdon Cook leads a fascinating trek deep into the mysterious world of mushroom hunting, blending intriguing natural history and quirky characters with insight into this murky, sometimes dangerous business. Riveting stuff for food lovers.” —Kathleen Flinn, author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
“A beautifully written portrait of the people who collect and distribute wild mushrooms, The Mushroom Hunters is food and nature writing at its finest. Langdon Cook’s descriptions are so visceral you can smell the mushrooms, the forests, the rain on every page. The book is full of telling anecdotes about a kind of American that is ingrained in our mythology, the frontiersman. Mushroom hunters are contemporary Davy Crocketts, living off the grid, in tune with nature, embodying the independent-mindedness that characterizes America. This is a terrific book.” —Eugenia Bone, author of Mycophilia
“In these pages, you’ll meet America’s last nomads—mushroom hunters—in all their ragamuffin glory. Langdon Cook brings to life all of these individuals with the eyes, ears, and heart of a first-rate novelist. Open The Mushroom Hunters at any page, and you’ll be instantly transported to the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, you may even find yourself smelling of pine needles. The book will be a revelation for anyone who wonders how those morels or chanterelles end up at their favorite restaurant.” —Lawrence Millman, author of Last Places
“The Mushroom Hunters is one of those very infrequent and wonderful books that change your way of looking at something you think you don’t care about. Who knew the humble mushroom could be shot through with suspense? The way Langdon Cook writes about these delicious fungi—the excitement in the story of their capture; the flair of the telling—has me convinced I’d go pretty far out on the wire myself to get some.” —Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
“The Mushroom Hunters is like the forest itself—gems are hidden throughout. Langdon Cook captures the surreal and deeply flavorful world of North America’s wild fungi, the sub-culture that seeks them, and the thrill of the treasure hunt.” —Jim Robbins, New York Times contributor and author of The Man Who Planted Trees
Pre-order The Mushroom Hunters: