A memoir explores the inner conflict of the new food order.
Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food
by Max Watman
W. W. Norton & Company
$24.95 List Price
“This is the topsy-turvy world of luxurious toil,” Max Watman writes in Harvest: Field Notes from a Far-Flung Pursuit of Real Food (Norton, $25), his new book about his adventures with—oh, how I’ve come to dread this phrase—real food. He’s describing his preparation of a foraged meal during a recent summer vacation, which began with him making salt from seawater, because “what could be more guttural, more intrinsically oceanic than the ocean’s salt?” He then infused the salt with anise liqueur and used it to season codfish, but not before Googling “fun to eat” seaweed species, which led him to the unappetizing-sounding bladder wrack (that scraggle with pods we’ve all tangled with while trying to walk out to sea for a relaxing back float). Back to the shoreline he went to gather some, which he soaked for an hour, then roasted for later, when he served it on top of seawater risotto.
There was also a batch of periwinkle fritters, achieved, in Watman’s telling, through “tedious work. You have to get past the little door they close on the world, a tiny disk of shell. Then you pluck them out with a toothpick, skewer, or small knife. It goes on forever, and your pile of meat never seems to get any bigger.” And that was after he’d spent the time collecting the snails and keeping them alive for a day in strained seawater in order to let them cleanse themselves of grit. (At least one odious task was performed by someone else, right?) If the words over the top haven’t popped into your mind yet, you are perhaps a more ambitious chef than I am, or at least a less irritable person.