From Scratch: Adventures in Harvesting, Hunting, Fishing, and Foraging on a Fragile Planet by David Moscow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a treat to read! In a whirlwind trip around the world, David Moscow gives us a peek at the sometimes delightful and sometimes distressing stories behind the foods we eat. He also introduces us to lesser-known vittles we could cultivate and consume.
The author is an actor with a notable role in movies such as Big, where he played the young Tom Hanks. He and his father wrote this book as a companion to his television series From Scratch. In each episode, he goes to different outstanding restaurants and interviews the chefs about their dishes specializing in local ingredients. After that, Moscow goes on a scavenger hunt to locate these ingredients to bring back to cook, prepare, and enjoy together.
The idea is interesting on its own. But Moscow kicks it up a notch by providing the local history that impacts food availability and quality, providing a fascinating glimpse at the past and our possible future. For instance, he travels to Kenya, where he must kill a goat (using traditional methods), and to Italy’s Amalfi Coast to harvest the perfect wheat (with a scythe) to prepare pizza crust.
The stories can sometimes be tense, even poignant, as when he gets ready to kill a wild boar in Texas. At other times, his experiences made me laugh out loud, as when he was harvesting scallops in Iceland. But one thing is for sure; the book was never dull. Butter smoked with sheep dung, anyone?
I’d recommend this book to anyone who cares about our planet. While Moscow respects local cuisines and eats meat, he’s also conscious of what he’s doing, and the killing never seems easy. His fascination and respect for a wide variety of potatoes in Peru match that for chanterelle mushrooms in the state of Washington. It’s also a gratifying look at different cultures’ cooking traditions. I really enjoyed it.