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Dec 22, 2009 07:50 AM

Am I the only hound who gets excited whenever a new River Cottage show comes out?

I know this an US-centric site, but where's the love for Hugh Fearnley-Wearnley? He's my personal food hero, and I just can't get enough of his television programmes. River Cottage Food Heroes is airing tomorrow night on Channel4 and you bet your sweet butt that I'll be all over that torrent as soon as it goes live.

If you don't know anything about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, here's a primer:

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  1. hey SnackHappy! i also *heart* hugh fearnley-whittingstall (whose name i can't say without breaking out into the soupkitten fake-english-laird parody voice). his books are fab. in particular i adore his MEAT tome. i want to give the river cottage family cookbook to every family/child i know. i don't have cable and have never seen any of his shows. a friend told me i can get them via internet, so i just have to find the time to do that ;-P

    2 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten

      I haven't seen HF-W's shows, but I have seen him on Gordon Ramsey's FWord program. We receive it on BBC America. He's the A#1 expert on all things porcine, I believe. Not to mentrion his organic farm. The Guardian has a nice collection of his recipes and then there's his own web site:

      I'd Love to get my hands on his Fish Cookbook, but it's out of stock everywhere, it seems...Or Very $$$.
      I Heart him too!

      1. re: Gio

        Try amazon uk - there are copies available for £12 or so. Obviously you'll have to pay a bit extra for shipping.

        I just got River Cottage Everyday - it's fab.

    2. I too love Fearnley-Whittingstall's work. While I've since discovered plenty of others like him, he was the first food personality I encountered advocating an eat gourmet by doing it all yourself lifestyle. He might be English, but, due to similarities in climate, geography, and cuisine, most of his work is perfectly applicable to New England as well. Unfortunately, I don't know of a New England food personality doing anything along the lines of what he does. The closest, I think, would be Dan Barber at Stone Barn, but that's more an individual project than a movement like Fearnley-Whittingstall's.
      I think part of the reason he isn't more popular here is that what he is doing is just not big in America. The slow foods / locavore movement may be, but it's mostly caught on among the affluent and in urban or dense suburban areas. People in the US interested in the kind of homesteading self reliance he advocates usually are not interested in gourmet food.
      Our self reliance culture usually springs from religious/philosophical movements that don't have a kind view of carnal pleasure. People who do allow themselves such indulgence typically don't really want to pluck a chicken or butcher a whole hog, let alone raise the animals. Or, if they do want to, getting the land to do so is a major issue, and they wouldn't really have any idea how to go about getting started on such a life altering project.

      6 Replies
      1. re: danieljdwyer

        I think you're right about Fearnley-Whittingstall's philosophy not being a great fit with the American public. I guess he's stuck in a no man's land between Alice Waters and the Amish. I can also understand why the average suburbanite trophy kitchen housewife wouldn't like his down to earth and somewhat righteous approach. But you would think that there would be more Hugh fans among chowhounds though. He is very much a bon-vivant who enjoys all aspects of food and doesn't turn up his nose at anything. He can also be very entertaining and even heart warming at times. I'm a city dweller and about as far from raising and growing my own food as anyone could be, but I still find his work very thought provoking and inspiring.

        1. re: danieljdwyer

          Regarding interest in this type of homesteading in the U.S. - it varies by area. Western N.C. has a great many endeavors that are fueled from a similar focus as Fearnley-Whittingstall.
          Other areas in N.C. have a fair share too.

          1. re: danieljdwyer

            "I think part of the reason he isn't more popular here is that what he is doing is just not big in America."

            It's hardly big in the UK. Our rural population is tiny with most of us living in large conurbations. It just wouldnt be possible or practical for most of us. And, of course, Hugh's rural lifestyle is nicely subsidised by his books, TV programmes and other commercial enterprises.

            It's the cooking with good wholesome food that's the appeal. And, of course, his campaigns (such as Chicken Out) pushes buttons with many of us - including those of of us who donated to fund him as a Tesco shareholder to put a question to the Annual General Meeting. Got a lot of good publicity.

            1. re: Harters

              This is coming from someone observing the UK from across the pond mind you, but I think the fact that the US and Canada didn't go through the mad cow scare has something to do with it. People in the UK seem to be much more interested in animal welfare and sourcing quality produce. If River Cottage only appealed to smallholders and foragers, they wouldn't be in business anymore. Downsizing doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition either. People can take what they like and leave the rest. And then there always those like me who dream of one day living The Good Life.

              1. re: SnackHappy

                There's certainly a growing interest in buying food with higher animal welfare standards. For example, a couple of supermarkets now only stock eggs from free range or organic chickens. My usual place hasnt yet eliminated the factory farmed egg but I'd still reckon well over 90% of the eggs are higher welfare.

                I forgot to link to Hugh's "Chicken Out" campaign in my earlier post but am happy to do so now. I think it'll be an interesting read for folk on the western side of the pond as well as ours:

              2. re: Harters

                The only place in the UK I've been is London, so clearly you would know better than I. But, my feeling on it was not that smallholding is terribly common in the UK. Rather, my impression has always been that smallholders are more likely to be utilizing natural methods there than in the US, and more likely to be focused on raising a high quality product. I could be entirely off base, of course.
                Given that there's a lot more land in the US, I'd imagine we have many times more smallholders. I grew up in a suburb of about 20,000 people, fairly densely populated, but even then, in the summer, we would pass by half a dozen farmstands on the way to the supermarket. But these people have no interest in organic or heirloom or animal welfare. They want to go down to Agway and buy Miracle Grow and cheap animal feed, because that costs a lot less than going to Stop and Shop and buying tomatoes and chicken thighs. They're producing food because they don't want to have to buy it, not because they want better quality food.
                Hugh's whole point is that if you do it yourself and do it right (or go to the trouble of finding someone who does), you'll have better quality food. There are, of course, exceptions, but it seems to me the primary motivation of most American homesteaders is free food, not good food. But hey, maybe that's got nothing to do with it. Just a thought.

            2. I'm also a fan of St Hugh - although he can get a bit worthy, if you know I mean. As an aside, in a recent series, he featured folk growing food in odd situations. And visited a small town near me where a couple of woman were growing food in roadside verges, on roundabouts and so on. Wouldnt have been too bad if he'd managed to pronounce the name of town correctly.

              That said, I've asked Father Christmas to bring me River Cottage Everyday.

              1. Snack happy,
                I totally agree with you, Hugh Fearnley-Wearnley is great television watching and his cookbooks are amazing. I really wish the Food Channel would pick up more culinary programs that are produced in London and Canada, I was in Italy in May and many of the cooking programs on TV were very interesting and informative. We've got to let America know there's more talent out there than just Gordo, Nigella and Jamie Oliver (to which I enjoy all three of them very much)

                1. I have been perusing his books at the library with some frequency. I think he has emerged as someone whose impact will be long lasting. I hope we will eventually have his shows aired in the U.S. Perhaps if he comes out with a line of $$$$ cookware the Food Network will take interest? (Said tongue-in-cheek)