Books

'It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It'

A pretty good food book from a guy who doesn't enjoy cooking, will eat almost anything, is cheap, and doesn't much care for food books.


It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer

Publisher: Grove/Atlantic
Length: 256 pages
Author: Bill Heavey
Price: $25.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2013-05
Amazon

“I’ve always thought there was something vaguely pathetic about people who were obsessed with food. It was like they didn’t have enough to do.”

Bill Heavey, author of It’s Only Slow Food Until You Try To Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gather, is nothing if not honest. Other points of candor in the book’s introduction: Heavey doesn’t enjoy cooking, isn’t a picky eater, is cheap, and doesn’t like most food books. “I had actually tried to read some of these books. But I always hit a wall. The author would go on for ten pages about how an unexpected encounter with rhubarb changed his life…This was when I would drop the book and fantasize about tying these people to telephone poles and force-feeding them Cheetos.”

Still, Heavey sets out not only to write a book about food but a book that documents his changing attitude toward food—“The book began when I set out to see how much of my own food I could get directly, with no middleman. In other words, by hunting, fishing, foraging, and growing a garden.”

Some of the book is actually about food: Heavey’s first experience with watercress eaten directly from the ground, frying and smoking freshly caught herring, stealing sour cherries from an unnamed government facility. But through it all, he’s wary about turning into one “those people”. When he's admiring the purloined sour cherries, he thinks “you’re turning into one of the very people whose preciousness you detest. Keep this up and pretty soon you’ll turn into one of those whack jobs who can’t stop talking about the time they tasted hand-harvested, unfiltered olive oil in Italy that had been pressed by eunuchs between two pieces of marble stolen from the Coliseum in the fifth century.”

At times, though, the book seems to be less about food and more about people — Heavey’s new romantic interest, his daughter Emma, who is less than enthusiastic about eating herring and dandelion greens, his friend Paula, who guides, loves, and insults him (frequently all in the same sentence) — and various hunters, fishers, and chefs he meets along the way.

Heavey is witty—he even manages to inject humor into recipes (one ends each chapter). At the end of the Cattail Pancake recipe he notes “Take a small bite, then toss in garbage pail. You have just proved that, should the grid go down, you could survive on foods like this. Go eat at your favorite restaurant and pray that this doesn’t happen soon”.

But it’s not all fun and games. Certain sections are a little gruesome and make Heavy seem almost unlikeable—such as when he tries to kill a squirrel (by shooting it with an arrow) for ruining the tomatoes in his garden. He merely wounds the squirrel, so then takes after it with a garden hoe in an attempt to finish the job. The squirrel does not die a pleasant death. Other sections are simply thoughtful and reveal another side to Heavey (and help make up for the squirrel murder):

“I had blood on my hands. And boots, one pants leg… It was October and I was up to my wrists in the body of a doe I’d shot minutes earlier as she nosed for acorns twenty-five yards from my stand. She had run for forty yards, white flag of tail tracing those leaping arcs through the air only whitetails seem capable of. On the fourth or fifth, she landed unsteadily, taken a wobbly step, and collapsed… She’d died as almost all deer do, eyes wide open. I remember hoping that my own death would be as swift and tidy.”

The back of book jacket proclaims “You will read bits of it aloud to anyone in earshot. But you will also think differently every time you sit down to eat.” The first part is definitely true. Most of the book is well told, and it is primarily a witty, quick read with some thoughtful moments that add to the realism.

The second part—is more of a definite maybe. Heavey does have some interesting thoughts on the way Americans consume. There is a section on baby carrots (which evidently are just big carrots cut into little pieces). And then more serious issues—Heavey connects food with power, and he clearly feels empowered because he’s removed the government and the middleman from his food. Another insightful comment:

“One of the hallmark phrases of the anti-industrial food movement is ‘food with a story.’ Knowing how and where the animals and plants on our plate were raised was essential to the experience of eating them. The more you knew, the richer the story. By contrast, industrial food would most definitely prefer anonymity about those particulars.”

All good points, but combined with the hunting, gathering, and growing, the travel writing, recipes, romance, parenting, and humor... the book just has a lot going on, and with Heavey’s beautifully snarky humor, the larger messages sometimes get a little lost.

How much does this matter? It’s a book with many layers, it's refreshingly untrendy, and it's narrated with great humor and honesty. Sometimes that's enough to make for a good read.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.