Jim Harrison has been one of my lighthouses of artistic honesty for years. He exposes himself and those around him in bare naked prose and poetry. It’s a guilty pleasure to read someone else’s guilty pleasures. Jim’s primary stock in trade has been poems, short stories, novellas and novels, though, as a food writer he is one of my favorites. His style in that genre is quirkier and more personal than Bourdain (both seem to involve themselves in the story as Thompson taught us, gonzo-style) and he suffers neither fools nor fakes, food ninnies nor dilettantes.
He killed a lot of what he ate, hunting, fishing and scavenging, and eat he did, prodigiously. He revelled in too much of everything, with legendary ten or more course meals in the history books, replete with magnums of mostly French wines, using all the nasty bits of the animal and with a keen sense of what would be the best red to pair with the sauteed cow brains?
Posthumously, his family published A Really BIg Lunch, a collection of some of his best food essays. I am smiling my way through this.
I love this passage from the last piece in the collection, Everyday Life: The Question of Zen:
“The hardest thing for me to accept was that my life was what it was every day. This seemed to negate notions of grandeur necessary for an interest in survival. The turnaround for me came when an interviewer asked me about the discipline that I used to be productive. It occurred to me at that moment that discipline was what you are every day, how conscious you are willing to be. In the Tao te Ching, it says “Act without doing; work without effort.” So you write to express your true nature, part of which is an aesthetic sense that reflects the intricacies of life, rather than the short circuits devised by the ego. Assuming the technique of the art has been learned, it can then arrive out of silence rather than by the self-administered cattle prod to the temples that is postmodernism.”
Happily, I am able to indulge Jim’s gourmandism vicariously, while discreetly nibbling two small sausages and an orange, like a diet nit-wit Jim would have railed against.