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Check It Out: Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir by Iliana Regan

This is Kelsey Patterson with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Michelin star-winning chef Iliana Regan first carved a space for herself between the culinary world and the literary world back in 2019 with the publication of her debut memoir, Burn the Place. It was the first food-related title in four decades (since Julia Child was recognized) to become a National Book Award nominee.

Shortly after celebrating the success of that book, her career took a sharp turn north which she chronicles in her latest work Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir. Iliana and her new wife, Anna, traded their home base of Chicago for a cabin in the remote wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to create a culinary destination, the Milkweed Inn, where much of the food served to their guests would be foraged by Regan herself in the surrounding forest and nearby river.

As she explores the ancient landscape, her stories of the land, its creatures, and its abundance of plant and vegetable life, are interspersed with Iliana and Anna’s efforts to make home and a business of an inn that’s suddenly, as of their first full season there in 2020, empty of guests due to the pandemic. Happily, I can give a little update and report that the Milkweed Inn weathered the storm and is in operation as a full-service bed and breakfast, offering accommodations each weekend during the summer and fall months.

Fieldwork is as concerned with the forager as the foraged. With captivating honesty and skill, Iliana Regan unearths her own history as she addresses Fieldwork’s core themes of androgyny, body dysmorphia, queerness, trauma, addiction, and culinary self-expression through memories of her childhood in rural Indiana, family stories about her Eastern European ancestry, and of course her new life in Michigan.

Check out Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir at the Sioux City Public Library.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Verde Outdoor Media.

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