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September 2013



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Wild Foods Cookbook--I feel like I'm coming full circle, but better!

Wild Foods Cookbook, originally uploaded by Cathy (Kate) Johnson.

I like sharing food and cooking online with my husband, in our new Starving Artists series--but don't be too surprised if I go back and mine my copy of The Wild Foods Cookbook, my first big cookbook!  LOTS of my favorites in that book, and translating them to non-wild ingredients (or offering the choice) would be a piece of cake.  Literally. ;-)

I wrote this in 1986 or '87, based on many of our old family recipes--I grew up eating wild mushrooms, greens, strawberries, persimmons and other goodies. I still enjoy them!

Funny, this is one of those sagas that most authors experience at one time or another. Remember the 70s? Despite the old joke, I know you do, if you're old enough! Euell Gibbons' "Stalking the Wild Asparagus," Billy Joe Tatum's "Wild Foods Cookbook and Field Guide," or my favorite, the Petersons' A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Hey, everybody loves the various Peterson Field Guides, and this one is no different!  Excellent work by father and son team Roger Tory Peterson and Lee Allen Peterson.)

I mentioned to my editor at the time that I'd grown up on wild foods, and she decided it would be GREAT if I did a cookbook.

I said "um, the 70s are over..."

But I was carried along by her enthusiasm, and sure enough, worked for well over a year on the book--recipes, field guide, appendices that included common wild edibles and the parts used, a section on poisonous plants to avoid, bibliography, index, and what seemed like a thousand illustrations! 

Finally I sent in the manuscript, and began that long wait for the final OK...which never came! They let my editor go, reorganized the whole department, moved the department head (who had also been really excited about the project) to a new section, and told me it was a no-go. At least I didn't have to return the portion of the advance I'd already received, after working for a year...

So after I licked my wounds for a while and stomped around the house, I went looking for a new publisher...too much work just to forget about, and I've discovered the way to survive in this business is perseverance! (Maybe that's just plain old stubbornness, but it works.) I must have sent that manuscript to 12 publishers before it found a home! The Missouri University Press was really interested, courted me, took me to lunch at a lovely hotel, and then...decided it wasn't regional enough! (Um...I'd picked virtually everything in the book in Missouri, except blueberries and cranberries...)

So off it went again, to one last publisher--The Stephen Greene Press, part of Viking Penguin at the time--and success! I loved my editor there, we worked together beautifully, and the book finally came out in 1989 (sans the field guide, which got cut for space reasons)...

And yep, the 70s WERE over, sure enough. It's still a darn useful book, but hippies have gone pretty corporate for the most part, and even organic farming is big business, now!

Funny old world...

It did get me thinking about more recipes, though...and those "thousands of illustrations," especially since I've been writing about soup... ..;-) 

wild soup

This is the chapter heading art for the soup chapter...


er, now i want a coloring book!
LOL! Well, I've done coloring books, too. One for The Elms Hotel, and one for my city government. I've talked about doing one for the local nature sanctuary, too...


I love that "hippies have gone corporate"--that picture makes my Inner Hippy roll with laughter inside my rib cage. Looking forward to updated
organics in the stew-- gonna be delicious.
I hope you enjoy it, Annie! I've been reading the Omnivore's Dilemma and find the changes in attitude and terminology since the early days really interesting!
In the "current economic climate," your wild foods cookbook should be ready for a renaissance!
It just might be, MissPrune! But I'm hoping maybe I can offer suggestions here, for now!
I love your stories! You ARE stubborn and that, along with tons of talent and intelligence and kindness, accounts for your success.
Very, VERY stubborn. *G* When I finally got an assignment from Sports Afield magazine, Gary Gretter, the art director, told me I'd worn him down! We worked together off and on till he retired...

And you're a sweetheart, thank you girl...
I'm surprised, with all the Euell Gibbons AND Cathy Johnson books Mom amassed, she didn't have this cookbook! Is it still in print?
Nope, it's long out of print! There are some on Amazon, though--even one of my copies.

I like your new icon!