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MDC releases new cookbook

The Missouri Department of Conservation has published a colorful new cookbook that emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients in a tempting collection of appetizers, fresh salads, savory stews, elegant entrées and delectable desserts.

“Cooking Wild in Missouri,” created by author Bernadette Dryden, presents more than 100 kitchen-tested recipes that will inspire beginner and advanced cooks to savor Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms. The 200-page book also features color photographs on nearly every page and tips to make time in the kitchen easy, efficient and fun.

“I adapted existing recipes and created original ones by using — for example — venison, trout, hickory nuts, pawpaws and chanterelles where typically the cook might have used beef, crab, almonds, mangoes and button mushrooms. It was just a matter of experimenting and adapting local foods to the knowledge I already had,” Dryden said. She also included several recipes from friends and Conservation Department staff.

Dryden, a former publications editor for MDC, is a lifelong cook and food enthusiast. She has traveled extensively and experimented with various cuisines, many of which influenced recipes in her book. For example, Dryden adapted Missouri’s fruits and nuts to Italian gelato, paddlefish to the classic French Niçoise salad, and venison to Greek moussaka and Korean bulgogi. Included also are twists on many classic American dishes.

“My aim is to give Missourians a collection of recipes for cooking native foods in a variety of ways,” Dryden said. “Missouri’s game, fish, nuts, fruits and mushrooms adapt beautifully to recipes from around the world.”

Dryden is a firm believer in the benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown foods for several reasons.

“Fresher always tastes better, so the closer you can eat something to its source the better it will be,” she said. “Just as important, is that when you hunt, fish or forage, you know the source of what you’re eating.”

Dryden also noted the importance of the state’s culinary heritage in creating the cookbook.

“I intend for this book to reflect proudly upon our state’s native culinary traditions by giving voice to people involved in the producing and procuring of local foods,” Dryden said.

While writing the book, she interviewed nut growers, mushroom and fruit foragers, hunters and anglers — many of whom she features in chapter introductions and sidebars. These include a hickory-nut grower from Osage County, a waterfowl hunter from Boone County and a few tips from hunters and anglers on bringing in the best meal and passing on traditions.

Dryden shares various pointers throughout the book on stocking a kitchen, selecting the best ingredients, finding foods at farmers markets in Missouri, developing a personal herb garden, using freshly ground spices, adapting recipes, possible pairings, re-using leftovers, general cooking advice and how to bring out the best in each dish.

According to Dryden, appreciating the foods Missouri has to offer is a way of connecting with nature.

“We have to eat to live, so why not enjoy food to its fullest, including learning where it comes from and how to prepare it?” she said. “If you pursue fresh, local and seasonal foods, you’ll inevitably find yourself out in nature.”

“Cooking Wild in Missouri” can be purchased for $15 at MDC Nature Shops or ordered online at

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