Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Living Wild

Whilst in the mood to blog I thought I'd share a book that I've recently read; The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food by John Lewis-Stempel. 

When I first received the book I wasn't really that enthusiastic about it as the cover seemed to feature some upper-class member of the horsey-set.   But from the opening page this really is a triumph of prose and an absorbing account of how Lewis-Stempel sought to live off hunted and foraged food for a year,. 
  • The Wild Life is John Lewis-Stempel's account of twelve months eating only food shot, caught or foraged from the fields, hedges, and brooks of his forty-acre farm. Nothing from a shop and nothing raised from agriculture. Could it even be done?

    We witness the season-by-season drama as the author survives on Nature's larder, trains Edith, a reluctant gundog, and conjures new recipes. And, above all, we see him get closer to Nature. Because, after all, you're never closer to Nature than when you're trying to kill it or pick it.

    Lyrical, observant and mordantly funny, The Wild Life is an extraordinary celebration of our natural heritage, and a testament to the importance of getting back to one's roots - spiritually and practically.
The struggle of the hunter/gatherer is well documented and Lewis-Stempel records his moments of hardship with warmth and humour.  The book pulls together interesting asides and anecdotes from folklore and early English literature.  It is also sprinkled with recipes both modern and traditional.

The book has a deep emotional feel to it that reminds me of Roger Deakin's Waterlog where the author shows a visceral understanding and love for the subject at hand.  In other ways it is an modern take upon Ian Niall's excellent The Poacher's Handbook.  Both these books are superb additions to the canon of modern nature writing and I have to say Lewis-Stempel's The Wild Life is right up there alongside them.


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