The food writings of Jim Harrison—a look back

Author Jim Harrison at the Wagon Wheel Saloon in Patagonia, Arizona. (Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images)
Author Jim Harrison at the Wagon Wheel Saloon in Patagonia, Arizona. (Photo by William Campbell/Corbis via Getty Images) /

In this piece, we’ll be taking a very special look back at the writings of poet, author, screen writer and food writer, Jim Harrison.

For us foodies, food writing is what we read from day to day, and the realm of food was something that Harrison was a huge and prolific contributor to, as a writer and foodie himself.

Of course Jim Harrison was so much more than just that, his output being so extensive in many departments in the writing world. In fact, to look upon the lasting image of Jim Harrison in full—one he left behind in 2016 at the age of 78—is to certainly look on a man that was indeed larger than life.

Who was Jim Harrison

As a titan in the publishing world—an industry he had a love/hate relationship with, Jim Harrison published many books of fiction. Legends of the Fall, Dalva, Warlock and so many others come to mind.

As a poet, many collections were unleashed by the genius and forefather of a style all his own. Songs of Unreason is a collection of poetry that stands out for sure, amongst nearly two dozen collections in that particular literary medium.

Screenplays were also yet another of his many fortes; Legends of the Fall was made into a Hollywood film starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins and Aidan Quinn. Dalva was made into a film starring Farrah Fawcett, and Wolf was made into a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and none other than the iconic Jack Nicholson.

But for today, we’ll be concentrating on the portion of Harrison’s writing that revolved around one of his other passions: Food. He was a huge foodie, as stated, but perhaps that cannot be said enough; he was one such that had a connection to the act of eating and cooking that many out there don’t and perhaps could never truly understand.

As foodies we understand what food can do. We know the emotional attachment it can have, as well as the obvious nourishment, but perhaps the connection to the soul that eating a tremendous meal can have is what Jim Harrison understood better than anyone else, and it came through in his writing.

As recollected by food writer, Melanie Rehak, at, Harrison once wrote in an essay entitled Food and Mood:

"“Existence is grounds for dismissal…It has only recently occurred to me that I might not be allowed to eat after I die.”"

And about the aforementioned connection that food has on the old soul, well to showcase exactly how much Harrison understood that, here’s yet another memorable piece of knowledge from the old soul:

"“Your immediate survival can depend on the morale boost of a good dinner…I recalled a day when I got fired (for arrogance) yet again from Hollywood and the murk of the dismissal was easily leavened by grilling a baby lake trout, about a foot long, over an oak fire, basting it with dry vermouth, butter, and lemon. Minor disappointments over an inferior writing day could be allayed with a single chicken…”via (link above)"

He had the respect of those in the cooking industry as well, and not just the publishing world and Hollywood. Celebrity chef, Mario Batali has always been a massive fan of his, as have so many others who not only admired his fiction but his food writing as well, along with his keen eye for charlatans, fakes and those that seemed didn’t understand that you couldn’t rush a perfect meal.

For Harrison, there was no 10-minute dinner for busy executives…there was no excuse to eat a bad meal.

His food writings, along with some sports writing and essays, were published throughout his career, as he worked on his fiction and poetry, and they were published in a wide array of magazines and publications which included: Brick Magazine, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, and that list only goes on from there.

But have no fear if you’re looking to read some of it, as you don’t need to look for all of these individual issues; his writings in the realm of food were so good, they’ve been collected in collection form and more than just once.

The Raw and the Cooked published in 1992, The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand’ published in 2001, and A Really Big Lunch: Meditations on Food and Life from the Roving Gourmand, published in 2017 are a great place to start.

In the end you owe it to yourselves, dearest readers, as foodies, to read the works of this great culinary mind and creator.

“Sometimes the only answer to death is lunch.”

-Jim Harrison / Warlock

“The idea is to eat well and not die from it – for the simple reason that that would be the end of my eating.”

-Jim Harrison

Next. When it’s okay to cut the mold off food and when it isn’t. dark

Any Jim Harrison fans out there? Which were some of your favorite pieces by the late, great writer? Let us know.