As a self-identified foodaholic, where do I begin to explain the various amazing foods of the North, and the foods of people from all over, who are currently living in the North.
I would like to start by introducing my first experience with country food in Rankin Inlet. I was invited to a celebration and of course traditional country food was being served. I wanted to try everything as soon as I arrived however, that is not respectful. The unfortunate thing happened, I had to leave for another commitment, and I never got to try this amazing set up. I had to leave, and forever I am sad for missing out on something so hearty, and so very special.
From that experience, I promised myself to never miss out on any event where food was involved. This caribou stew and bannock was offered during Nunavut Day celebrations in Rankin.
I would say that there is more access to a variety of country foods in Iqaluit simply because it is a bigger place with many hunters shipping their meat around, plus the country food stores which act as a local distributor as well.
Below is a fish called turbot (Greenlanding Halbut) and again, one of the most interesting and delicious fish I have tried. I love all fish, but turbot is creamy and very buttery in flavour.
I have also purchased and made seal for my parents and brother's family down south, and they loved it! I would say, seal meat taste like liver and onions, however, when made in a stew it is amazing. I prefer the lean parts however, the fat (blubber) is also very tasty.
Warning about eating seal meat for the first time: it is very saturated with iron, and eating too much of it all at once can get you a bit dizzy and light headed. My brother got the meat sweats just after his 3rd plate of seal stew :) I was one proud sister !
Eating out on the land, everything seems to taste better. Even baked beans and chilly, anything. This was a photo from my trip out to the flow edge, but the edge was too far for a one day trip. Only those who camped over night got to see it the next day.
Country food can be consumed cooked or raw. I prefer caribou and muskox cooked but seal I can have raw or cooked, and muqta (skin of beluga, narwhal, and whale) I love raw, just like sashimi. Char, I can eat raw, dried or cooked. Raw and dried is probably my most favourite way.
Here a friend is teaching me how to make pitsi - tried char. I wanted to eat the char raw as I was preparing it. So very soft and yum! But I persisted and attempted to finish what I have set out to do -make pitsi.
Once the fish is cleaned and cut up properly, it is put out to dry. The longer you leave it out the dryer it gets, however, watch out for flies and maggots. Make sure you eat the pitsi before they do :)
Clam digging happens during the end of the summer, once the water and air is very cold. Unfortunately, I have terrible joint pains, and so I was unable to help with much of the diffing, but I got very good at spotting them :)
While I take pride in being a nurse by trade, and that nothing even potentially gross phases me, clams do. I find them the most unappealing creatures but they do taste yummy. As an initiation, of course I had to eat my very first clam raw. It turns out that they hold a worm inside. When eating raw, you MUST remove the worm - it's a long thin white thing. Then you are good to eat raw. However, when you cook clams, all is safe to eat :)
For those who know me, while I love all foods, dessert is my most favourite food, though lacks nutrition. This was my dessert on a semi-blizzard day, it was a Sunday, and I felt like going to see a movie and having lunch alone. Not sure if it was out of sympathy or just extra time on the chefs hand, but this was my one and only special dessert in Iqaluit. Others were still yummy but not as dressed up :)
Home made caribou sub on home made bannik and home made desserts you can buy from people in Rankin :)
While 2 Ocean's is a yummy wine, what lies behind it is even more amazing. That is a smoked char in a home made smoker, with maple syrup or honey if I remember correctly. It was my only 1 time try, never again I have had something that amazing, and the taste forever lingers.
In Rankin, we had some great time getting together with the midwifes - mostly for food and card games. It feels so long ago now.
Breakfast burritos on the land - just some of the fancy feasts we had while living in Rankin. The food was also lovely in Iqaluit during our outings, but special thanks to Rankin chefs who would cook up a feast before heading out.
Special celebration in town - Rosh Hashana in Rankin
Char in Rankin
I turned a year wiser in Rankin - and had an amazing char dinner with cake and friends :)
At my Iqaluit office, I quickly learned that there are monthly potlucks which started me on a path of cooking/making various shared foods - and slowly running out of ideas at times. This was a Halloween themed guacamole dip, while very yummy, not sure how appetizing though.
Have you ever tried eating burger cup cakes - your brain gets confused.
And if potlucks are a thing at work, then I quickly learned they were a thing in Iqaluit all the time. I have attended many dinners and enjoyed so many delicious food, I made the decision, in order to give thanks to everyone, I would host thanksgiving. This experience made me realize that I will never probably host it again. Thought I was pretty proud of the result. And of course everyone dressed up the bird with their contribution of a side :)
Eating on the land is never an issue in Iqaluit thanks to BBQs set up around town.
When being out on the land for a while, ski or snowmobile, you perspire a ton. But since it is so cold out, you don't always crave water to drink. I love having something warm like tea, but this could further dehydrate you. So, to supplement my water loss I have started chewing on icicles just to keep it entertaining and trick my body accepting more fluids.
During the spring and summer months there are many things you can eat on the land. Berries are very delicious and most of them are safe to ear. Cloud berries are new to me as it is not something we had growing up in Europe or southern Canada. I found out that it is also common in Newfoundland and maybe the east coast.
The one and only cloud berry of 2016, I found just outside of Rankin.
Blueberries are everywhere, and during a summer hike, I rather just craze on berries then hike :)
I have been very fortunate to experience a few farmer's markets in Iqaluit. I have volunteered at every market in 2016 and now in 2017. I never knew how much I love playing with food till I had the opportunity to volunteer at these events. I think now I have a better understanding why mom and dad love their veggie garden so much - not sure if I'm ready for the entire growing process but for now I really enjoy the markets and try to help out any chance I get.
Overall, I would have to say that my food intake has not only increased but the quality of it and the variety of the foods I eat are very delicious and exciting.
Thanks to very knowledgeable and conscious friends, they have shared their views on food which has helped me to eat more fresh produce and cook from scratch rather than save time and use pre-made stuff. I love food and I love cooking food.
Lack of access to healthy foods in the north is a serious and real issue in Nunavut. The price of food is probably the largest issue that people face. Most of the more affordable food is probably bad for you but families struggle to afford healthy meals.
For me, I am fortunate and thankful to my heritage, root vegetables are a large part of my diet. I can cook stews with just about any vegetable even if expired. I eat a lot of vegetables as per my Eastern Euro culture. However, I am also very fortunate that I can afford it. I have been able to incorporate country food in my diet as well, so I have increased my options this way.
But in a culture that depends on nourishment from sea mammals for many generations and now there is a lack of easy access to these foods - and the affordability of crappy food - creates a dangerous and unhealthy mix of struggles for local people.
It is very ironic, and at times strange to know, that for me living in Nunavut has bettered my experience and relationship with food, while many people around me struggle every day with hunger. I make it my goal to contribute to local culture by continuing to buy local game, learn how to make local food, and share as much as I can with dear friends - in hopes for the ripple effect.
Only one more blog entry left in this 5 part series - and it is the fifth and final sense: to feel.
I thought to myself: how on earth will I explain the feel of the arctic. I mean I can explain that the water is cold, and the snow is cold, and dogs and fur is soft, and bumpy rides are ouch - but how would I capture the real 'feel' of the north.
Well, stick around and read on! The final Nunaversary entry, Part 5: Things to do above the 60th Parallel - which really is another way of saying, activities which makes you come alive above the 60th parallel.
- R :)
- R :)