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
“The clarity that arrived was even better the second night, when the temperature rose to a balmy twenty. We had moved camp to a grove of sycamores, and their smooth bark gleamed white above my head, a reassuring totem of the physical world. The wilderness does not make you forget your normal life so much as it removes the distractions for proper remembering.”
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.