By David Draper
It’s been a few months since we had a Six Pack Q&A, and I think it’s time to revisit the series. Today, I caught up with Hank Shaw, wild-game chef and author of the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I truly believe Shaw is riding the leading edge of not only cooking wild game, but also foraging for wild eats from the land and sea. I’m a regular visitor to his site, where I’m always finding new inspiration for my cooking, even if I’ve never heard of half the ingredients he’s using. Shaw has a new book out called Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast. He took time out of his busy book tour to answer six questions about how and where he finds his inspiration.
FS: Your blog attracts a wide range of readers, from hunters looking for new ways to prepare game to people who have never picked up a gun, but are looking for a meaningful connection to their food. What do you attribute this diversity to and how do you keep them coming back?
Shaw: I think I’ve been fortunate enough to attract a diversity of readers partly because I consider myself a cook who hunts, not a hunter who cooks. It is a subtle difference, but it’s there: I spend my time outdoors in search of nature’s bounty, and while I love the thrill of the hunt or a strike on a line as much as anyone, I’ll happily shoot a fat doe camped out on an alfalfa field over an eight-point buck; the doe will be better eating. Non-hunters appreciate that outlook, and statistics show that the vast majority of Americans support hunting for the table. And you know what? I think most of the hunters out there agree with me: They hunt to fill the freezer, and if they get a nice buck, that’s great, but it’s not the highest priority. That connection, from the field to the table, binds us all, hunters and non-hunters alike.
There’s also another thing I think is going on: I came to hunting late in life, so I understand that hunting can seem weird and alien to an outsider. I address that in every hunting story I tell, and it helps non-hunters wrap their minds around the pursuit. What’s more, I’ve found that this approach has inspired lots of non-hunters, mostly foodies, to take get their hunter education certificate and learn to hunt themselves. That is deeply gratifying.
What keeps them coming back? I stay busy. I am always experimenting with new cooking techniques—sous vide is my current favorite—and new ingredients. The number of edible wild plants out there to explore is virtually endless.