“Few things have so much significance to our lives as what and how much Nature provides us to eat and how we use it to nourish body, soul, friendship, ceremony….it is not just our hearts that hidden behind stomachs; it is whole cultures.” – Cooking Alaskan
A few weeks ago, the Biologist went hunting and successfully killed a deer. What followed was the usual butchering, processing and loading up the freezer. I am not really a fan of wild game and this phenomena launched a manic hunt for a venison recipe I might enjoy. My friend let me borrow the book Cooking Alaskan and let me just say….I was intrigued.
Cookbooks are my favorite. I own too many and am always on the prowl for new recipes and culinary perspectives. Cooking Alaskan is one of the most entertaining and interesting books I have read in quite a while. Most of the recipes I had never heard of. I was both curious and appalled by some of the dishes (i.e. Hilda’s Heart, Four Day Spiced Walrus, Sea Gull Pie). While it is not visually stunning (there are no pictures, Thank God), it offers a methodology that seems thorough and simple. This book implies that you don’t have to be a genius to make an authentic Alaskan meal.
Cooking Alaskan is divided into four sections. The first is “From the Waters” and involves recipes and preparation techniques for fish, shellfish and other things that live in the water. It includes a few paragraphs on sea mammals (think Sea Lion Spaghetti & Meatballs) and a little bit on how to prepare Beluga whale (muktuk).
The second section – “From the Field and Forest” – involves all things bird and beast. There are a few paragraphs about ‘Cutting Meat – The Alaska Bush Way’, ‘Rendering Bear Fat’, and of course, several Moose Burger recipes. There were several venison recipes that piqued my curiosity but I am probably going to stay away from the Beaver Paprika and Chicken Fried Muskrat.
The third portion – “From the Earth” was my favorite section. It has all sorts of recipes for berries, vegetables and plants that grow well in Alaska. After having a garden this year, I have a lot more respect for cultivating vegetables here. Bessie Billberg’s Rhubarb Custard Pie and Alaska Berry Cobbler are two recipes that caught my eye too!
The fourth and final section – “From Cache & Cupboard” is about sourdough (of course!) and discusses methods for salting, drying, pickling and preserving food. There is a bit about camp and cabin baking, as well as tips and techniques for preparing jams and jellies.
If you are looking for a comprehensive Alaska cookbook…look no further! While I probably won’t use all the recipes in this book, reading it was definitely an experience. Please excuse me while I go roast some venison….