A Delicious Country: Rediscovering the Carolinas along the Route of John Lawson's 1700 Expedition
In 1700, a young man named John Lawson left London and landed in Charleston, South Carolina, hoping to make a name for himself. For reasons unknown, he soon undertook a two-month journey through the still-mysterious Carolina backcountry. His travels yielded A New Voyage to Carolina in 1709, one of the most significant early American travel narratives, rich with observations about the region's environment and Indigenous people. Lawson later helped found North Carolina's first two incorporated towns, Bath and New Bern; became the colonial surveyor general; contributed specimens to what is now the British Museum; and was killed as the first casualty of the Tuscarora War. Yet despite his great contributions and remarkable history, Lawson is little remembered, even in the Carolinas he documented.
In 2014, Scott Huler made a surprising decision: to leave home and family for his own journey by foot and canoe, faithfully retracing Lawson's route through the Carolinas, documenting the journey on a website. This is the chronicle of that unlikely voyage, revealing what it's like to rediscover your own home. Combining a traveler's curiosity, a naturalist's keen observation, and a writer's wit, Huler draws our attention to people and places we might pass regularly but never really see. What he finds are surprising parallels between Lawson's time and our own, with the locals and their world poised along a knife-edge of change between a past they can't forget and a future they can’t quite envision. You can order A Delicious Country here.
Some writers of note have already spoken up for A Delicious Country. Here's what they've had to say.
"It's been said that one of the only true plots is this: A man goes on a journey. In A Delicious Country, Scott Huler demonstrates why that narrative arc retains such strength. His retracing of John Lawson's epic circumnavigation is thoughtful, relaxed, humorous, and generous. It retrieves for us a lost world of discovery and wonder and reminds us that the goal of every departure is to learn to value home."
--Maryn McKenna, author of Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats
"An eye-opening journey through the contemporary South. As he does in his other excellent books, Huler reminds us in A Delicious Country that the present and the past coexist all around us. He writes with great specificity about each topic at hand, but he never loses sight of the larger human story. The book excels as a work of exploration, history, and science. It is also simply what reviewers like to call 'a rousing good read.'"
--Michal Sims, author of The Adventures of Henry Thoreau
Click on the book to buy it from the publisher. Though it's worth noting I try to buy books at my local independent bookseller or used bookstore. And yes, there's always Amazon.
"An absorbing read. Huler's experiences during his modern trek do not, of course, duplicate what John Lawson found so long ago, but forms of beauty and dispossession rhyme down the centuries in thought-provoking patterns."
--Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and Varina
"From the boggy salt marshes near Charleston to the parking lot of the Charlotte Motor Speedway and beyond, Scott Huler has breathed new life into the English explorer John Lawson's all-but-forgotten 1700 journey through the Carolinas. While much of the physical landscape has changed over the centuries, the characters who inhabit it are still vibrant, still contradictory, still completely unforgettable. Only a storyteller as warm and witty as Huler could wrangle such a sprawling, complex natural history into an engrossing travelogue that leaves the reader wanting nothing but more."
--Bronwen Dickey, author of Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon
Environmental History: "A most delightful, thoughtful, and novel study--a delicious book to be sure.... Best of all, Huler demonstrates that not only are Lawson's poetic illustrations of the people and landscape important for us today but so too are his inquisitive perspective and welcoming spirit."
Salt Magazine: "Huler’s adventures and misadventures on the road entertain and inform. He is the best type of tour guide, one who is well-informed but not at all pompous. His wry, self-deprecating sense of humor helps his serious medicine go down smoothly."
The Raleigh Naturalist: "Integrates the best bits of Lawson into a fine contemporary exploration of the same territory 320 years later. With all its commentaty on topics from NASCAR country to the Percy FLowers Plantation development, his tale perhaps most strongly reminds us of the great value in getting outside ... and keeping a sense of discovery alive."
Statesville Record & Landmark: An "excellent read."
North Carolina Historical Review: "An ethnographic journey backward and forward in time through the lens of a culture's pathways. ... Like all 'road' books, the story here is about the journey, not the destination. And a wonderful journey/story it is.""
North Carolina Literary Review: "Huler chooses subjects that snag at surfaces but reveal great depths; he puts his mind and body on a journey of encounter, then brings science and history to life by including human stories. Lawson's journey haunts Carolina's nature and travel writers. I've heard more than one of them yearn to do just what Huler did. Reading A Delicious Country, preferably in a hammock tied between two trees, may be the next best thing."
Greensboro News & Record: "Our journey as a state has brought us all to a crossroads in time. And we don’t have any idea where we’re going. Lawson saw it up close and personal 319 years ago. Huler saw the same thing in 2014."
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute: "John Lawson discovered the Carolinas of his era. Scott Huler does the same for ours. His readers will be rewarded with fresh insights into both the past and our shared present."