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Guest Chocolata

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Guest Chocolata

One of my friends wants me to join her in writing a cookbook on foraged foods.

 

Sounds intriguing, but I know nothing about it. And what really worries me, is all of the stuff I don't know that I don't know. In other words, I have a feeling there are issues I haven't even thought about. My friend grew up on a farm not far from here, and knows a bit about foraging - and has tried a few things, but she's not what I'd call "highly knowledgeable."

 

Anybody 'round here do much of it? I'd appreciate whatever thoughts you care to toss my way.

 

I'm concerned about:

Legal issues

Could this lead to ecosystem damage, if harvesting a particular plant became popular in a given area?

Figuring out whether there are look-alikes for an edible plant (or other varieties) that may be poisonous

How far to go in warning people, like "if you're allergic to X, you're probably allergic to Y."

Probably lots of other things I haven't even thought about

 

Question: I'm a decently competent cook, and I believe I can come up with appropriate, well-written recipes. But do I have any business doing this, when I know little to nothing about the subject?

 

I'm trying to determine whether I would be getting in over my head, task-wise, and content wise. I don't want people to get poisoned because we didn't warn them adequately, and I don't want to contribute to localized ecological problems.

 

I'd be grateful for comments and advice.

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One of my friends wants me to join her in writing a cookbook on foraged foods.

 

Sounds intriguing, but I know nothing about it.

 

<snip>

But do I have any business doing this, when I know little to nothing about the subject?

 

Writing a book is an excellent way to learn about a subject.

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There's a difference between cooking foraged ingredients and teaching people how to forage. Are you going to be responsible for both? A lot of your concerns are valid for all food items, whether cultivated or wild (allergies, etc). Regulations about foraging vary by locale and over-harvesting can damage any ecosystem. You can make responsible foraging part of the book. The poisonous look-alikes would be my main concern but that's what research is for. Mushrooms are the obvious thing but a few years ago a couple died while camping in a remote area because they ate wild hemlock (my guess is they thought it was wild fennel which kinda sorta looks similar). Check out Euell Gibbons' books. I remember reading them as a kid and thinking it was pretty cool though my parents weren't all that enthused about actually eating the stuff.

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More important than being an expert forager is being a good researcher and writer. As somebody once said, it's the journalist's job to educate himself in public. Do enough solid research to write the proposal and see if a publisher bites. If they don't, you haven't wasted a year writing a book that won't sell. If they do, you've got about a year to learn the issues and develop your spin on them. Could be an interesting book. In the U.K. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has done a couple of television shows on urban foraging. Might be worth looking into.

 

Good luck,

Chad

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It's commendable that you worry about the ethics and ecology of it all. (You don't need me to tell you that. :) ) But there are a lot of practical considerations, since writing a cookbook is a ton of work, usually with very little if any reward.

 

As Chad alludes, it's all well and good to want to write a cookbook, but then what? Or worse: so what? Steve "Wildman" Brill has several books out on both foraging and cooking foraged foods, as do others. How will this one be different? Will it just be self-published for friends? Does your friend want to try to have it picked up by a publisher? I'm not sure if Rodale is still doing books, or if they take outside manuscripts if they do; they'd be ideal, but not the only publisher who might be interested. A university press might be a good option, if it's geared to a specific geographic region.

 

As to the recipes: if you really do want to write the recipes, get yourself a copy of Recipes Into Type and one of The Recipe Writer's Handbook. There is a method to writing recipes; it's not just listing ingredients and giving a few instructions, as so many noncooks seem to think. And remember that you -- and/or your friend and others -- will have to test the recipes many times, to be sure they work.

 

(Disclosure, since Chocolata is relatively new here: I copyedit cookbooks for a living.)

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I don't want to discourage you but I do know of two different books on foraging that are in the works now. It's the new black. Not that you won't be able to get something published, but I think you'll need to narrow your focus more than just foraging.

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Langdon Cook is a forager in the Pacific Northwest, who blogs and Twitters about foraging. His cookbook Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager was released on August 31. He's fascinating to read (blog or Twitter), and apparently has the greatest respect from the Seattle chefs and food industry people that I follow. (@HerbGuy, @ChefReinvented, @Deensie, @MarcSeattle, etc.) (They are a fun and rowdy group, those Seattlites!)

 

You might want to contact him, or at least read his blog and Tweets. His book blurbs are exemplary.

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What? I was told the copy editor did the recipe testing! (now wondering about the Pork Tartare recipe and the emails I keep getting).

 

Chad

 

:lol:

 

Chocolata: in-joke: I was Chad's CE. One of the best times I've had with a book: the writer knew the subject AND how to write. An unbeatable combination, doesn't happen all that often.

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Guest Chocolata

The initial conversation with my friend, which took place in late spring, was before my husband was laid off. We had agreed we would self-publish. But now my husband is laid off, and I don't know that I'm interested in coming up with several hundred dollars to front this project.

 

When we initially met to discuss it, she said, "I would like to be ready to go to press in November." :blink: :huh: :lol:

 

That's when I knew I was in trouble. I guess I thought we'd just work on it whenever time allowed over the next few years, and publish when we felt we were ready. Having a deadline - even having pushed it back a year - isn't going to work for me because of several family issues I'm dealing with right now.

 

If I may publicly psychoanalyze myself, I think I was looking for an excuse to abandon this project when I started this thread. The information I have received here will be extremely valuable. If we decide to go ahead and do it, I've received good information; I've also received some good reasons not to do it. I'm truly grateful for all of the input, and would welcome more if anyone has anything else to contribute.

 

I think we would limit the book to Kansas and the states surrounding it. That means road trips, and decisions about what to include and what not to include.

 

It seems just too daunting to even consider now, but I think I'll keep researching, and see what comes of it.

 

 

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