Extreme Food: What to Eat When Your Life Depends On It by Bear Grylls
William Morrow - Nonfiction/Survival
272 pp., incl. index, picture credits and appendices
If you've seen Bear Grylls eating disgusting things on television, you probably have a decent idea what you're in for in Extreme Food but it's far more than worms, birds' eggs and snake meat (although, ugh, I've seen him cook all of those on TV and that egg and worm omelet . . . just, no).
Let me back up a bit. What I expected of Extreme Food was entirely different from what I got. Grylls talks about food, but he also mentions things you should carry in your backpack if you're going out in the woods, how to build a proper fire, how to make a container in which to do your cooking, which plants are best raw or cooked and what he considers the best way to cook them, how to build a number of different traps to catch edible animals, how to best approach an animal you want to hunt, various ways to kill animals and how to make the tools to do so (including a number of different methods of fishing), how to distinguish animal tracks, which animals to avoid entirely and which of the various hunting methods are typically illegal and should only be used if you are in a life or death situation.
That's a surprising amount of information crammed into such a small book. However, there's a down side. The chapter about fungi, for example, describes both edible and poisonous mushrooms. Unfortunately, Grylls says many are so difficult to tell apart that it's best to purchase a more comprehensive guide and study them. Not helpful on the fly. Nor are some of the illustrations all that clear; although, to be fair, some are quite good.
A few things I learned:
- An air rifle is "the only gun you're allowed to carry unlicensed in the UK [. . .] and the same goes for many other parts of the world too." Interesting from an American perspective.
- The most important single tool you should carry is a good knife.
- There are a lot more ways to fish than I could have ever imagined.
- Death by alligator would seriously suck.
- I'm definitely more of a roots and nuts type of gal than the shoot-and-skin variety but I was much less horrified by the thought of capturing and cooking animals in a desperate situation than I expected.
One thing that hasn't changed:
- I'm still convinced I'll be the first to die if I'm ever in a group of people stranded in the wilderness. And, the others will eat me. But, it doesn't hurt to learn how to try not to die.
The bottom line: There's a lot of interesting information in Extreme Food and it's an enjoyable read, if occasionally a bit disgusting. But, it has its downfalls. If you're looking for a single survival manual to keep handy in the event of disaster (to tuck in your automobile trunk or keep handy if you're camping or hiking), this isn't the book I'd choose. I think you'd be better off reading a more comprehensive manual like that put out by the S.A.S. or the U. S. Army. Having said that, I think anyone who has a general interest in survival may come away from the reading having learned something, so I recommend it but it's definitely not my favorite of the survival guides I've read.
My apologies to anyone on my feed who has seen three versions of this post. I made a mistake in the first version, updated it, and then decided I needed to add a few more thoughts.
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