Paying it Forward – Jennifer Lalli

–Sheila Rockwell

In her day job, she is a chemist. On nights and weekends, she writes cookbooks. Jennifer Lalli self-published her first cookbook, a compilation of wild game and organic recipes titled “Hunt and Gather”, last year. As a way of “giving back”, she donates more than half of the proceeds from the sales of her book to charities. “Hunt and Gather” is described as “the spiritual and epicurean testimony of an avid new hunter. Jennifer shares her love of the outdoors and years of nutritional research on whole foods in this autobiographical guide to clean eating and positive thinking. This LIFE book is meant to be read from cover to cover…”

Jennifer took the time to talk to us and to share her incredible and inspirational story of how hunting and the great outdoors helped her discover the secret to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

TAWS: Jennifer, tell me about your introduction to firearms, and how that progressed to hunting?
“My introduction to firearms was first with a concealed weapon for self-defense at age 36. I was terrified of all firearms prior to shooting a handgun, and had only hunted with a bow the year prior. Through education, my fear was replaced with respect. My husband was then able to convince me to try hunting with a muzzleloader. I loved it! The primitive loading, the “boom”, the accuracy… I have since killed deer with both muzzleloaders and rifles, according to the season. It is amazing how things we may so easily dismiss can bring such joy in inexplicable ways.”

TAWS: Which came first: writing cookbooks or hunting? “Writing a cookbook was a dream of mine that began over ten years ago, around the time my husband and I hoped to start a family. I was always interested in talking about it, but I found my own writing uninteresting. I started hunting five years ago, around the time that we almost gave up on having children. It was during our second failed round of IVF that I told my husband I wanted to focus on all things positive and write my cookbook. Chris supported my dream and literally guided me through hunts and venison dressing. Since eating whole grains healed my body, and hunting had healed my spirit; I developed the concept for a healthy Christian cookbook focused on venison and whole foods. I wrote “Hunt and Gather” with the intention to help others; but I had no idea how powerfully it would change my own life.”

TAWS: You say that you and your husband “found God” through hunting. Can you elaborate on that? What was it about deer hunting that you found so enlightening?
“On our hunt for deer, we absolutely found God. My husband befriended a local archery and bow-hunting expert, who also happens to be an inspiring Christian. We were raised Catholic and believed in God, though we did not truly know Him. While my husband encouraged me give bow-hunting a try, our friend encouraged both of us to give their Church a try. I will never forget my first time in a Treestand. Being forced into solitude with nothing but God’s creations to soak in, I immediately knew this was something I desperately needed. I began reading Watchman Nee’s New Believer’s Series pamphlet-sized books and praying for others during my hunts. I could feel my spirit changing and my heart opening with each hunt and longed for more. I decided to read the Bible and tried practicing Scripture that inspired me. As a born carnivore, I always loved preparing and consuming venison…though as a new Christian and hunter, I have never appreciated deer more.”

TAWS: Are hunting and writing cookbooks your way to unwind/decompress from your day job? Do you have any other hobbies or interests?
“Absolutely! Hunting and cooking allow me to unwind. Writing allows me to think and create in ways that also benefit my day job. Other prior hobbies were stalking shoes with my best friend and testing small kitchen appliances. My current hobby is spending every free minute with my husband and one year old and finding new ways to make them giggle.”

TAWS: Tell me about the process of putting together your cookbook, and why you chose to self-publish.
“Self-publishing was the worst financial – yet best life decision -wehave ever made. I had a vision for the quality and message of “Hunt & Gather”, and am proud that I pressed forward despite repeatedrejections. “Hunt & Gather” was something I had to experience, document, and distribute. I know now that my inner voice, constantly pushing me, was the Holy Spirit advising me to publicly share my testimony. I thought writing the book and finding a publisher would be easy. First, I thought I had enough photos to fill a book with the recipes I had developed over the years. I also thought that a healthy cookbook for the spirit and body with full color photographs and tutorials for hunters, vegans, and gluten-free readers would be a win-win-win for everyone. Turns out in today’s digital world, almost no one is willing to invest in publishing a hard copy, full color book by a “nobody”. When I started putting it together, I did not have a single photo that looked anything like one in a quality coffee table cookbook. I had to start from scratch. I bought a camera and learned food photography by doing. My photos progressed in quality and intrigue with each recipe. God blessed me with the funds, insomnia, and discipline to self-publish. I wrote and cooked before and after my day job, prayed for a publisher, and worked extremely hard to procure one. I wrote and submitted detailed proposals per each publishers’ rules and varied formats. Proposals ranged from 2 – 20 pages in addition to diverse specific styles of requested draft manuscripts. Each quality color copy submission cost nearly $200. I realized that I could expend all of my time and resources writing proposals – or just finish the book. I also knew that a book deal could mean waiting years to see my testimony in print, and perhaps conceding to major style and content changes.”

TAWS: You donate half of the proceeds of your cookbook sales to various charities… What prompted this decision, and how did you choose the charities that you support?
“My dream was to have it picked up by a publisher and donate a tremendous amount of money to charity. My reality was an attempt to recapture my printing cost as the self-publisher, and then donate the rest. Last year I donated more than $5000 to national (Wounded Warrior and Project Healing Waters Fly-fishing) and local charities (Auburn Baptist Church and Kid’s Cure for Cancer). I also donated countless cookbooks to any friend or stranger that I thought might benefit from the carefully selected interspersed Scripture. I chose the national organizations as a way to give back to our veterans in return for our freedom. The hungry that our Church feeds and sick children can never have too much.”

TAWS: What else would you like our readers to know about you?
“We had to endure heartache and survive success to learn that we are not in control and that God’s plan is way better than anything we could have dreamed. Hunt & Gather has literally given our growing family new life. There is nothing else that we could ask for. Because of this, and in the spirit of James 2:17, for all future sales, I have resolved to donate the entire purchase price to charity. “Hunt & Gather” is available on Amazon and at I have begun a book about our journey and a second cookbook and will follow God’s plans for these as time permits.”

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