What a Mushroom Lives For: Matsutake and the Worlds They Make by Michael Hathaway has been nominated for a 2023 James Beard Media Award. One of three nominees in the Reference, History, Scholarship category, which celebrated books that “present research related to food or foodways,” What a Mushroom Lives For tells the fascinating story of the matsutake, a highly prized species of mushroom, and the astonishing ways it silently, powerfully shapes worlds, across nations and cultures.
In researching the book, author Michael Hathaway spent time in labs and field stations with Chinese and Japanese matsutake scientists and carried out fieldwork in Southwest China’s Himalayas forests to explore the profound changes that occurred as local communities began selling the lucrative matsutake on the global market—“one of the most distinctive signifiers of Japanese national identity and thus…highly valued by Japanese consumers.”
Hathaway is professor of anthropology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada and author of the award-winning Environmental Winds: Making the Global in Southwest China. He is also a member of the Matsutake Worlds Research Group, which has conducted joint fieldwork across Europe, Asia, and the United States, following the matsutake, “from remote mountainsides to high-tech labs and to high-end grocers and dinner plates.”
The annual James Beard Awards, “recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive.” This marks the second year in a row that a Princeton University Press University Press book has been nominated for a James Beard Media Award. Joseph Ewoodzie’s Getting Something to Eat in Jackson was nominated, in the Writing category, in 2022.
The winners of the 2023 awards will be announced on June 3rd, in Chicago.