Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fun Fact: Eskimo Food

Living in Shishmaref has exposed us to all sorts of culinary delights. I have eaten things I never dreamed existed. Steve, however, has been a little more cautious (he always brags about all the crazy stuff he ate on his mission in Brazil, but he can't handle a few marine mammals. Weakling). I thought I would introduce you to a few of the common Shishmaref delicacies.

Walrus. (Thank you U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for sharing this picture on Wikipedia here.)

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This is what walrus meat looks like when the walrus is no longer alive. The walrus fat is called koq (pronounced "coke"; my Inupiaq spelling is pretty poor, f.y.i.).

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These are walrus flippers. They usually bury the flippers until they ferment. I've never actually eaten fermented walrus flippers, but I have eaten fermented seal flippers. They are really chewy. I chewed each bite for about twenty minutes. :) It had a strong flavor, but it wasn't bad. The knives around the flippers are called ulus. Ulu means woman's knife. It is the traditional knife for butchering and scraping. We have an ulu. It is the best knife ever. I use it to cut all of our meat, chop vegetables, and as a pizza slicer.


Seals. (Thank you to Wordless Symbol who shared this great underwater picture with the greater online community at Wikipedia here.) This is a common seal. The people of Shishmaref also use bearded seals (ugruk) and spotted seals.

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This is a seal before being butchered. If it looks a little stiff it's because it's frozen. And also dead.

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This is what the inside of a seal looks like as the skin is being pulled away. Notice the paw in the bottom left corner. It looks kind of cute except for the claws. They're long. And sharp.


This is seal without the skin. The dark part is the meat, and the white part is the blubber. The meat is baked or dried (dried meat dipped in seal oil is called pinaluq (remember what I said about my Inupiaq spelling...)). Seal meat is interesting... It has a texture like beef, but it tastes like fish. My tongue is confused whenever I eat it. :) My favorite way to eat seal is baked with barbecue sauce. (I'm serious, I actually eat it with barbecue sauce.)

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After the meat is removed, the blubber is scraped off. Then the skin is dried, tanned, and ready to be sewn.


Caribou. (Shout out to Dean Biggins of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who was cool enough to allow use of his picture at Wikipedia here.)

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This is raw caribou meat. It can be butchered into roasts, steaks, ribs, and pretty much any other cut of meat.

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These are caribou ribs. Some of my students butchered them during Inupiaq days our first year here. Caribou is awesome! It tastes a lot like beef. Great flavor. Steve thinks it's a little greasy, but I don't mind it.

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Caribou is often made into stew. Caribou stew is served at all village potlucks. This bowl is from the Thanksgiving feast. (I apologize for the insanely blurry picture. It was taken in the days before I had a decent camera.) The stew often includes corn on the cob, stewed tomatoes, and spaghetti noodles.

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This is maktak. (I actually looked up how to spell this word. I thought it was muqtuq or muktuk, but I guess I was wrong. Or the website is wrong. I don't really know.) Maktak (muqtuq, muktuk) is whale skin and whale blubber cut into little slices. We don't see this very often because we're not a whaling village, but it is occasionally flown in from other villages. I haven't actually tried this, but I want to. Maybe I'll offer to trade somebody some muktuk (muqtuq, muktuk) for some funeral potatoes or something (that's the closest thing I can think of to an exotic food from Idaho)...


Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for Sharing Angie! I really enjoy reading your writting and looking at your pictures you provide! =) I love Funeral Potatoes!!! Miss you guys. Rina Alston

JEM said...

Gross, Angie. I'm eating right now and I totally had to skip the middle section with the seal guts.

Super Angie said...

Hahahaha! Sorry for grossing everybody out. VFN never intended to be the cause of anybody vomiting or getting sick.

Anonymous said...

I've linked to your post!


Anonymous said...

that helped me at school thank you