Category Archives: asides

The Fly Tapes: Episode 3

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with Jason Rolfe, a writer and fishing guide who uses fly-fishing as the put-in to navigate an ever-changing stream of words, art, and ideas through a variety of mediums. In addition to guiding and taking shifts at my local flyshop, Emerald Water Anglers in West Seattle, Jason operates the Syzygy Fly Fishing web site, runs a podcast called The Fly Tapes, and is the impresario behind Writers on the Fly, a traveling reading series that combines tales inspired by fly-fishing with visual art, music, conservation, and beer (not necessarily in that order).

In episode three of The Fly Tapes I talk to Jason about salmon culture, the recent release of my book Upstream: Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table, and the writing life, among many other  topics, in a wide-ranging conversation that might as well be taking place in a drift boat deep within a basalt slot canyon.

In related news, this week kicks off the second annual Cascadia Tour for Writers on the Fly, with readings/happenings in Bend (11/14) Portland (11/15), Seattle (11/16), Bellingham (11/17), and Vancouver, BC. (11/18) I’ll be at the PDX gig this Wednesday with several other esteemed writers, artists, conservationists, and moon-howlers.

Voracious Tasting & Food Awards

voraciousUPDATE: We have a winner! Stinging Nettle Spanikopita. This is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a while and the author provided a detailed, if slightly improvised, recipe. I’ll post it in the future. Lots of other great ideas, including Nettle Raita, Nettle Larb, and Korean-style Nettle Salad. Thanks everyone for playing!

The Seattle Weekly‘s 6th annual Voracious Tasting & Food Awards will be held on April 23 at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle. I’ve been to a few of these in the past and can say without reservation it’s a chowhound’s night.

Presented by the Washington State Beef Commission, doors open at 7:30 p.m. (6 p.m. for VIP ticket holders) with bites and booze from scores of Seattle’s favorite chefs and mixologists.

The nice folks at Voracious food blog have given me a pair of tickets to give away. Since this event has become a regular spring fling, let’s celebrate the season. Comment below with your favorite recipe for stinging nettles. I’ll choose a winner based on my own very subjective taste (bonus points for a nettles recipe I want to make myself).

Thinking Outside the (Recipe) Box

larkWhen friends from out of town come to visit, I often take them to Lark, John Sundstrom’s Seattle restaurant, which is celebrating a decade of good food this year.

I’ve been eating at Lark since it opened in 2003. The launch party for my first book, Fat of the Land, was at Lark. John made a porcini crostini (photo here, at top) that night that continues to be one of my go-to apps for dinner parties: sliced baguette rubbed with garlic and topped with a mixture of ricotta cheese and roasted porcini mushrooms, with a sprinkling of sea salt. That simple dish in many ways encapsulates John’s philosophy: a fresh ingredient foraged locally and allowed to shine.

John has now put this philosophy on paper (or your device screen, as the case may be) with his new book, Lark: Cooking Against the Grain. It’s a big, beautifully photographed book, with many of John’s signature recipes from the restaurant, such as his Farro and Wild Mushrooms and Geoduck Ceviche. The focus is unabashedly Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on local producers and wild foods.

The book is organized around three “seasons,” which John refers to asmist (November to March), evergreen (April to July), and bounty(August to October). During the mist season you might want to be acquainted with Scallops Choucroute with Ham Hock and Pickled Mustard Seeds. Evergreen brings forth Sunchoke Soup and a hearty dish of Rabbit with Morels, Favas and Emmer Pappardelle. And bounty is a colorful Sockeye Salmon with Corn, Bacon and Lobster Mushrooms followed by a Black Fig Tarte Tatin, among many other treats of the harvest season.

John admits in his introduction that some of the recipes included aren’t dumbed-down versions, so he’s also produced an inexpensive iPad app that includes color, step-by-step photos to go with each recipe.

This is food that celebrates a sense of place. If spot shrimp or spiced apple cake make you swoon, you’ll want to dig into Lark: Cooking Against the Grain. As John says, the book is “about living the good life in the Pacific Northwest.”

To learn more about chef John Sundstrom and his food, see his talk “Thinking Outside the (Recipe) Box” this Friday night at Seattle’s Central Library, 7 p.m., presented in partnership with Elliott Bay Books.

The Hawk Lady

Dear readers, I’m pleased to share with you an essay of mine that was a finalist in Terrain.org‘s third annual writing contest. Terrain is an online lit journal that celebrates the intersection between nature and the human-mediated world. My submission, “The Hawk Lady,” was published in issue 31, which debuted yesterday, January 15.

Those of you have read my book Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager will recognize the essay’s setting—the Rogue River Canyon of southwestern Oregon, where I spent a year off the grid with my family, a sabbatical away from the city that inspired both the book and this essay. So while it’s not about foraging, per se, this piece is very much a part of what I’m doing now and my interest in our relationship with the wild.

Dept. of Horn-tooting

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of introducing national NPR correspondent Martin Kaste to the woods—and all the possibilities for nourishment that await within. The segment was part of a week-long series devoted to “West Coast Innovators.”Short radio interviews can be tricky, but I think Martin did an excellent job of capturing the many levels of awareness that go into foraging, from the sheer visceral pleasure of it to the culinary to the cautionary.

Listen to my NPR interview:

The following week, while in the Cascades hunting spring porcini, I took a break on the edge of cell range to speak with James Beard Award-winning food writer and personality Anthony Dias Blue. Listen to our conversation on “Blue Lifestyle” (starts around 18 minute mark):

Sustainable Eats May Challenge

Over at Sustainable Eats, where you can find the excellent new guide The Urban Farm Handbook, with advice and helpful tips on everything from backyard chickens to container gardens, May has been officially deemed the Foraging Challenge Month. Take the challenge to learn some useful new skills and give yourself a chance to win prizes.

Here’s the deal. Make a meal in which all the main ingredients are wild and/or foraged. It’s that simple. Then, at the end of the month, leave a comment on the Sustainable Eats blog about your experience to be included in a prize drawing. Even better, include a link to your own blog post about a wild and foraged meal.

Prizes include a copy of my book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager; Jennifer Hahn’s book, Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine; and Hank Shaw’s book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. Speaking of Hank, last week over at the Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog, he offered his own foraging challenge: go find morels.

If you’re new to foraging or always wanted to give it a try, this is a good month to get your feet wet. Across the continent, May is bursting with wild greens, spring mushrooms, and, depending on where you live, fish and shellfish. In my neck of the woods, we have the return of iconic runs of spring run chinook, known as springers, considered the tastiest of all salmon because of their high fat reserves. In addition, the Alaska salmon fisheries kick into gear with Copper River sockeye and chinook. May also marks the last razor clam dig of the winter/spring season in Washington as well as the first spot prawn opener. There’s usually a tide low enough to dig for the wily geoduck. In the woods, meadows, and city lots, edible weeds are popping up everywhere, not to mention native greens such as fiddleheads and miner’s lettuce. And let’s not forget those wild spring delicacies, morels!

For my own challenge meal, I joined 14 high school students and two teachers last week to cook a wild feast after several days of foraging around Seattle and beyond. This is the second year I’ve been invited by the Bush School in Seattle to teach a week-long “experiential” class. Over the course of the week we visited a state forest to forage for native greens, picked weeds in an urban park, went clamming in South Puget Sound, and even hopped over the mountains to find a couple pounds of morels just as the mushroom season was kicking into gear.

On the last day we cooked up our harvest. Or rather, the kids processed and cooked the feast. Our meal is testimony to the varied and delicious menu that can be put together with a little knowledge of one’s own habitat and some healthy tramping around in the outdoors. On our menu:

Yours need not be so extensive. Just make sure the main ingredients on the plate are wild and/or foraged. Things to think about after you harvest (or purchase), cook, and eat your wild meal: How did it taste? Anything different? Was it worth your time and effort—and if so, why? Take the Foraging Challenge!

Comments, Money & Grumps

Dear Readers,

Recently it has come to my attention that the infernal spam bots have taken a liking to FOTL. They’re sneaky—they attach their junk to older posts. I spent hours the other day weeding them off the site. Too bad they have no nutritional value like true weeds. As a result of this hassle, I’ve switched the comments from unmoderated to moderated. The upside is that I’ll intercept the spam at the gate; the downside is that you might need to wait a few days to see your comment if I’m in the field or traveling.

While slashing down the spam, I noticed that there were quite a few comments I’d never seen before. Because this blog is seasonal, certain topics tend to come up year after year (e.g. dandelions in March). I’ll try to address unanswered questions/concerns in future weeks.

I also came across a few rather grumpy comments about “commercial” aspects of this blog. Perhaps you’ve noticed that there’s no advertising here, unlike many blogs in the ‘sphere. This is by choice. (And by the way, I don’t begrudge any blogger who tries to monetize their site in a relevant manner.) I’ve chosen to not take ads in order to reduce clutter and because, frankly, I don’t think advertising would earn me enough income to justify the effort. I know other bloggers who make a tidy sum in advertising each month because of their excellent and popular blogs.

That said, I need to make a living and this blog is part of my work. Many of my readers are grateful to know about upcoming workshops and lectures; if you’re not among them, I ask for your patience. It’s my opinion that the occasional post about such events hardly constitutes a mercenary backslide into crass commercialism, but we all have our own definitions. One reader told me such posts only belonged on web sites, not blogs. This seems to me to be slicing it awfully thin. In any event, I plan to take that reader’s advice at some point in the future and start a site. Until then, relevant info about upcoming trips, workshops, lectures, readings, and so on, will appear on this blog from time to time.

Thanks to my faithful readers for your interest and support.

—The Management

4 Courses

Literature is sustenance—we all know that—so why not pair writers with dinner? Join me on Wednesday, April 27, at the Richard Hugo House for an evening of food and words with myself and three other Seattle writers. Food will be provided by Tom Douglas, Taylor Shellfish, and High 5 Pie.

Four courses, four readings. I’ll be shucking metaphorical oysters to accompany the real thing. The other courses include my wife, Martha Silano, who will read from her most recent poetry collections, Blue Positive and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception; Kevin Craft, author of Solar Prominence and editor of Poetry Northwest; and Kate Lebo, poet and pie-maker extraordinaire.

Buy your ticket now for this tasty event.

Bay Area Mini Tour

Dear Bay Area Foragers, Cooks, Outdoors Enthusiasts & Readers:

I’m happy to announce I’ll be visiting your lovely habitat (and my former stomping ground) April 19 thru 21 to read at local book stores and give a slide lecture at the Sonoma Mycological Society. Come by and say hello. You can find me:

Beginner Shellfish Foraging & Cooking Classes

In association with Bainbridge Island Parks & Rec, I’ll be teaching three shellfish foraging and cooking classes this spring. Two classes will focus on steamer clams and oysters, while the third will be in pursuit of the legendary geoduck, world’s largest burrowing clam.

  • May 1: Shellfish Foraging & Cooking. Bring your rubber boots and bucket. We’ll learn how to dig for clams, shuck oysters, and cook our catch. Lunch will be littleneck clams steamed in white wine sauce at a nearby picnic area, with oysters on the half-shell as an appetizer.
  • May 18: Same as above.
  • June 15: Geoduck Dig. We’ll learn the finer points of wrestling a giant geoduck clam from its lair, then repair to a nearby picnic area to make a delicious ceviche. Class size limited.

More information is available through Bainbridge Island Metro Park &  and Recreation DistrictTo register, please call 206-842-2306 x115.