Book Review: The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, by Steve Rinella

Thursday, November 09, 2006


This is the story of Rinella's year-long quest to gather ingredients for a three day feast for several of his friends and family using recipes from Escoffier's Guide Culinaire. The highly engaging narrative is full of knowledge about hunting and dressing fish and animals that would have been common knowledge a generation or two ago but is now fast disappearing, and tracking down the variety of beasts on the menu requires the author to learn quite a few new tricks. We are also given glimpses of Escoffier's brilliance, which seems to have transformed Rinella's frame of reference on cooking and food. The project is a tribute to Escoffier and also to Rinella Sr, who had acquired a taste for haute cuisine in France during the war and who sustained it mostly by his own hunting and fishing after returning to the US. The meal is also a final attempt to convince a hunter's vegetarian girlfriend to become a meat eater.

The term 'scavenger' in the title I found misleading, since a scavenger lives off what others have left behind and Rinella is all over the continent pursuing and gathering the game. There was thus less to learn from a frugal perspective than I expected, particularly since my own diet has been going more and more veggie. The book did help me recognize that there are all kinds of ways to obtain and prepare food, and resourcefulness in acquiring foodstuffs combined with deep understanding of ingredients and preparation can result in some of the most creative and satisfying cooking and eating.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The picture on the cover leads one to assume they may be about to learn how to prepare whatever is the freshest roadkill encountered on the way home, wild or domestic.

Mimi said...

A very insightful review, Pepper.

I've been offline for a bit (faulty logic board), but I am enjoying catching up with your posts.

Pepper said...

Hi anonymous (whom I think is related to me....), I was just thinking that 'scavenger' could mean gathering and eating things that most people would pass over.

Mimi, enjoyed your post and discusson on wine!