Thursday, August 23, 2007
no one cares what you had for lunch
But this is no ordinary lunch.
It was a working trip to Nome, and we were presented with an Innupiat Eskimo style banquet. Dried whitefish, salmon strips,
caribou sausages, muktuk, muktuk salad, seal oil, and walrus. I'm not sure the raw string bean is traditional, but doesn't it look nice? The paper plates and the saltines are sort-of-traditional. Pilot bread is more traditional than saltines. Both are used to soak up more oil. There was cooked salmon pineapple teriaki for a second course and blueberry buckle (not agootuk?) for dessert.
Now I fell in love with halibut, salmon, and crab the moment I entered Alaska. I have been thrilled with all preparations of moose and caribou. Seal meat is delicious, although my uneducated palate cannot distinguish it from walrus. I have often been told, "You eat good for a gussuck". ("Gussuck" means not an Alaska Native and more specifically, not Eskimo. It is said to be a corruption of "cossak". It is not a fighting word, there doesn't seem to be any malice in it, and we often refer to ourselves this way.)
I have been ambivalent about muktuk (slices of raw whale blubber and skin) and seal oil. Not disgusting, but the mouth feel was unpleasant and there seemed to be too much chewing involved,
Today, I slid happily over that barrier of strangeness. The seal oil was so lovely I poured it over my fingers as well as my whitefish. I licked if off my fingers and soaked it up with crackers thinking it was better than fine olive oil. The aftertaste in my mouth and the smell on my fingers were wonderful.
And muktuk! The contrast in color and texture between the skin and the blubber were thrilling, The texture was perfect, firm but yielding. I loved the smell, I licked my fingers, I treasured the soft feel of the fat in my mouth.
I am starting to think about leaving Alaska for a variety of reasons. I think of myself a few years from now, in a double wide in an active adult community in Florida, or a studio apartment in the Bronx. Craving muktuk.