Home » FoodTalk: Hank Shaw and Elaine Corn discuss hunting, fishing and foraging
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FoodTalk: Hank Shaw and Elaine Corn discuss hunting, fishing and foraging

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Cafe Bernardo hosted a FoodTalk conversation Saturday, with former news editor and author of six cookbooks Elaine Corn and former journalist of 18 years Hank Shaw, local author of “Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast.”

The FoodTalk centered on a conversation between Corn and Shaw about Shaw’s new book and his experiences with hunting, foraging, fishing and cooking.

A crowd of about 30 sat in cushioned chairs, some holding copies of Shaw’s new hardcover book, others sipping coffee from white ceramic mugs.

Audience member Mariko Yoshihara, political director for California Employment Lawyers Association, said she was inspired to attend the FoodTalk.

“I’m becoming more interested in the locavore movement and becoming more connected with the food I eat,” Yoshihara said, adding that she recently planted her first tomato plant.

Shaw described activities like camping to illustrate the benefits of hunting and foraging for food. He explains that hunting a fish from the wild and preparing it with even the most basic ingredients, such as salt and butter, is more satisfying than commercialized methods.

“That fish is infinitely better than what you would buy at Costco, and that’s what this is all about,” Shaw said.

He said the knowledge to gather and hunt for food is out there. One just has to want it.

“I can see far greater vistas in any given field or stream than someone who doesn’t have the knowledge, because I know what’s edible,” he said. “I know that if you do this to that, it not only becomes edible, but delicious,” Shaw said.

Corn explained that Shaw’s book contains detailed gutting instructions and read the introduction passage about gutting a rabbit:

“Gut your animals first. Stuff the cavities loosely with clean paper towels. Watch to see if the paper towels soak with blood. If they do, replace them with clean paper towels. Right now moisture is your enemy. It can breed germs.”

Corn asked Shaw how he dealt with the gruesome gore of the insides of animals.

“I’ve been gutting fish, including extremely large tuna, my whole life,” Shaw said. “Blood doesn’t bother me. If you ever gutted a tuna the size of this table, it’s a messy business.”

Corn and Shaw discussed the origins of some of the common food we consume regularly to emphasize the fact that many products are imported from south of the Rio Grande.

“Think about your pantry right now,” Shaw said. “Think about what you eat. Then think about what’s native to north of the Rio Grande,” said Shaw. “ Wild rice, turkey, cranberries, Jerusalem artichokes. … I’m running out.”

They listed crops and their origins. Beans and corn come from South America and squash from Central America.

“There is an entire set of plants that are world-class ingredients, that we know of a little bit or we just ignore completely,” Shaw said. “What I want to spend my time doing is to highlight that stuff and to work with it as a cook.”

Corn asked Shaw to walk the audience through the process of making flour from gathered native acorns.

Shaw said nutrients in acorns vary by species. Acorn nutrients include high protein, high fat and some are high in carbohydrates.

“A good acorn will drop hat-less,” Shaw said about gathering acorns from local oak trees, like valley oaks or black oaks.

The acorn can be processed for several days to make a form of flour and can be used to make a variety of foods, Shaw said. Shaw’s book features a recipe for acorn flatbread as well as ravioli pasta made from acorn flour.

Audience member Linda Rapattoni who works in the Capitol, asked about the flavor of acorn flour.

“It has no gluten, but it has a nutty flavor closest to a toasted walnut flavor,” Shaw said. “It’s very distinctive, dark. It’s aromatic like an oak tree.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the FoodTalk, Yoshihara asked about where to begin as a new forager.

Shaw replied by saying that was his favorite question to answer and encouraged the audience to start foraging in their yards or a nearby park.

“What lives in a green space near your house, know those plants, figure out what they are,” Shaw said. “You learn these associations and identifications. Your world becomes a very different place. Sometimes I feel like I inhabit another world,” Shaw said about knowing which plants are edible.

Among the crowd was wine broker and Shaw’s friend David Pentoney, and his

 girlfriend Holly Heyser, faculty adviser for the Sacramento State Hornet newspaper.

Pentoney said he was at the FoodTalk to support Shaw because he agrees with his ideas and they also go hunting together.

“I want to take care of myself,” he said. “I want to live a healthy life. I want to see my daughter grow up, and I think that is one of the best things you can do as far as your health. Eat well, get some exercise and eat responsibly and ethically,” he said.

Pentoney said the local food movement is important because “it doesn’t make any sense to be catching fish in Chile and shipping them up to California.”

Evan Watson, junior geography major at Sacramento State, was attracted to the FoodTalk in hopes to gain more knowledge on edible foraging.

“The techniques that he mentions in the book for looking at what things you can eat and what things you can’t,” Watson said, “should be a good starting point to learn more about this is the future.”

Watson’s Eagle Scout background has led him into the woods since childhood, and that has inspired the desire to learn more about foraging.

Shaw is currently focusing on his book tour which will travel through 21 states, with many events in San Francisco and Truckee.

Shaw will lead a foraging walk July 16 at the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee.

He is currently working with chef Jacob Burton on the dinner dish that will be served at Stella, featuring High Sierra and Great Basin ingredients like wild Nevada pine nuts and Nevada trout.

“Know where your food comes from, even if it’s just a piece of it,” said Shaw about the importance of hunting and gathering. “To have the ability, the skill set, to go out into the world and obtain your own food,” Shaw said, “that’s part of being a more complete human being, even if you don’t do it all the time. To know how to do it, I think, is important.”

Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information has been struck out and the correct information has been added.

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