Reading Jim Harrison’s “The Raw and the Cooked” takes you on adventures: You sleep outside under the stars in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, consuming quail, doves and magnums of Bordeaux. You get stranded in a thunderstorm in Montana, after which you revive yourself with a fiery rabbit stew. You dine among vapid Angelenos and classy Parisians, over-indulging every step of the way. You get gout, try to keep it at bay and fail miserably, because at the end of the day you’re a hedonist, and your life would be devoid of pleasure without lusty reds and fatty meat, your hunting dogs at your side.
The Raw and the Cooked isn’t a cookbook or a novel: It’s a series of essays about a life well-lived, and the struggles we face in spite of our pleasure. Harrison’s endless appetite for food and drink is mesmerizing and often hilarious; his meditations on the wilderness are as captivating as his recollection of dinners spent in the company of Hollywood big wigs (he wrote Legends of the Fall, among other books-turned-films). His gruff, poetic cultural observations remind us to stay true to our roots, spend time in solitude and never, ever miss a meal.