In rural Alaska, holiday menu comes from land

  • By Michelle Theriault Boots Anchorage Daily News
  • Thursday, November 28, 2013 7:48pm
  • Local NewsNorthwest

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In Kotzebue, Thanksgiving dinner will include frozen sheefish cut with a bandsaw. In Nome, salmonberry pie with a graham cracker crust. In Huslia, moose-head soup.

People who live in rural Alaska say Thanksgiving is a time to share the best of what you have with the community, whether that’s muktuk, or whale blubber, or green-bean casserole.

The residents of Little Diomede Island — where you actually can see Russia — will sit down to a communal feast featuring turkey helicoptered in from Nome and perhaps some walrus stew, said Willis Ferenbaugh, the school principal.

Turkey, fruit salad and pumpkin pies ordered by the school district arrived on Monday’s passenger service flight from Nome.

Ferenbaugh is hoping some seal ribs or soup also appear at the feast, which he thinks will attract about 50 people.

In the hub town of Nome, people will bring village specialties to the multitude of church potlucks happening Thursday, said Charles Brower, a Methodist pastor.

Folks from the Teller area are likely to bring reindeer soup because a herd roams the area.

St. Lawrence Islanders living in Nome usually bring walrus. “Most of their food is from the ocean,” he said. “But they had a bad year for walrus, so I’m not sure what to expect.”

Brower will bring muktuk from his hometown of Barrow. “The old folks prefer the boiled uunaalik because it’s softer and they might not have too good of teeth.”

He prefers it raw.

Akpik pie, made with salmonberries, orange Jell-O, a graham cracker crust and whipped cream, is another potluck staple.

Just about every one of the town’s seven or so churches is hosting a meal.

“You could go from one to another to another,” he said.

In Kotzebue, Jimmie Evak was spending the day before Thanksgiving soaking beans and thawing caribou for chili. Potlucks are also a big deal in the Northwest Arctic town, in particular the one held at Kotzebue Friends Church.

“They get many people who don’t usually go to church,” he said. “Everyone goes all out.”

The menu is expected to include baked, boiled, fried or frozen, raw sheefish.

Also on the menu: salmon casserole, turkey (cost in town, according to Evak: about $45 for a small bird) and pumpkin pie.

A treat of muktuk, sent down from North Slope bowhead-whale hunting villages, was also expected to be on offer.

An abundant berry harvest on the tundra this fall would mean plenty of kayusaaq, a cranberry sauce.

“You put the cranberries in the pot, add water, sugar and a little flour then you boil all that together,” Evak said.

In the Interior Athabascan village of Huslia, Elsie Vent was planning to cook a turkey her niece won as a door prize at a Halloween carnival.

Moose-head soup, which is exactly what it sounds like, and a roasted goose will also be on the table at her dad’s house.

“They stuff it. They roast it until it gets tender,” Vent said. “Man, it’s good.”

Cecilia Martz, who is from the village of Chevak and lives in Bethel, will be eating a version of akutaq made with mashed potatoes, Crisco, olive oil, water and salmonberries or blackberries.

Once a friend in Anchorage offered her a taste of “turducken,” which is a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, all boneless.

That was a little confusing, Martz said, because the best part of Thanksgiving is picking the meat off the turkey bone.

There’s a Yup’ik word for that: pukuk.

More in Local News

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Edmonds police are searching for Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, in the homicide of his roommate. If you see him, call 911. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Two missing men found, one alive and one dead

The man found alive was found in an apartment across the hallway and taken to a hospital.

Darrington School Board dealing with upheavals

The crux of the controversy seems to be the superintendent’s job.

Alaska Airlines has selected destinations for new service from Paine Field. (Alaska Airlines)
Alaska Airlines will fly from Everett to 8 West Coast cities

Two destinations that didn’t make the list were Spokane and Hawaii.

Most Read