From National Book Award-nominee Iliana Regan, a new memoir of her life and heritage as a forager, spanning her ancestry in Eastern Europe, her childhood in rural Indiana, and her new life set in the remote forests of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Fieldwork explores how Regan's complex gender identity informs her acclaimed work as a chef and her profound experience of the natural world. Not long after Iliana Regan's celebrated debut, Burn the Place , became the first food-related title in four decades to become a National Book Award nominee in 2019, her career as a Michelin star-winning chef took a sharp turn north. Long based in Chicago, she and her new wife, Anna, decided to create a culinary destination, the Milkweed Inn, located in Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula, where much of the food served to their guests would be foraged by Regan herself in the surrounding forest and nearby river.
Part fresh challenge, part escape, Regan's move to the forest was also a return to her rural roots, in an effort to deepen the intimate connection to nature and the land that she'd long expressed as a chef, but experienced most intensely growing up. On her family's farm in rural Indiana, Regan was the beloved youngest in a family with three much older sisters.
From a very early age, her relationship with her mother and father was shaped by her childhood identification as a boy. Her father treated her like the son he never had, and together they foraged for mushrooms, berries, herbs, and other wild food in the surrounding countryside, especially her grandfather's nearby farm, where they also fished in its pond and young Iliana explored the accumulated family treasures stored in its dusty barn. Her father would share stories of his own grandmother, Busia, who'd helped run a family inn while growing up in eastern Europe, from which she imported her own wild legends of her native forests, before settling in Gary, Indiana, and opening Jennie's Caf