Eskimo Ice creams
Written by Donna Long
Deserts are the adventurous aspect of a cuisine. Every desert, irrespective of the place, has a unique blend of taste which can either prove to be scintillating to yor taste buds or turn you off from a particular blend of favor.
Alaskan natives have a very unique and strange desert called Akutaq, or more commonly known by the layman Alaskans as Eskimo Ice Cream. Never heard of it? Well, read on, because you are in for a treat of the strangers. (And yes, I mean it literally) Why is it strange? Because, it is an acquired taste.
The word Akutaq (a-goo-duk) is from the Yup’ik language, dialect of a central Alaskan native tribe, which means something mixed or mix them together. It is a delicacy with most Alaskan Natives and was usually prepared after the success of the first polar bear or seal hunt. It is prepared by combining whipped tallow or fat with berries. The fat comprises of a wide range of animals depending on what is available – reindeer, whale, polar bear, seal, walrus, moose or caribou with berries. Alaskans are truly resourceful when it comes to matters of meat!!! Common berries that are often found in Alaska are cloudberries, blueberries, cranberries, salmonberries and crowberries. Another ingredient that is often added to this mixture is the dried meat from reindeer, moose and fish.
A recipe that speaks for thousands of years of heritage, and that has been passed down through generations, the original recipe of Akutaq is considered as a survival recipe for hunters or travelers between villages. In case of unfortunate circumstances like stranded due to foul weather or any kind of dangerous perils along the way to the village or on the hunt, the only source of food remaining for sustenance would be of nonperishable kind. Lets be clear here, it was not like you could just jump into your car or walk around the corner to you neighbors’ house. Villages were miles, sometimes days apart from each other and along the way there were bears, moose, wolves, coyotes and wolverines that had no problem trampling you or eating you and your dog team for dinner!
You can’t just dig into the food and compliment the host while munching it down. There is a delicate ritual involved before the dish is served. The woman who cooks the Akutaq, will draw a shape of a cross in the middle of it and then a pinch of the mixture with each type of berry is taken and thrown into the fire while proclaiming out loud “Tamarpeci nerluci” which means “all of you eat”.
Akutaq aka the Eskimo Ice Cream, has a rich history that reflects its evolution from a mere survival receipe to a rich delicacy that is served on occasions that reflect the richness of human heritage like the first hunt of a boy, funerals, weddings, potlatches or any other celebrations. Like any history, there is always something new that makes the difference. The akutaq receipe has evolved into more variations today. Now the dessert is frequently made with Crisco shortening which is readily available at the local grocery, as compared to the tallow or fat from an animal. Other changes are the addition of raisins and sometimes sugar.
Are you tempted yet? If you are, which one would you like to try out – the one that is enriched with tradition or the one that evolved into sophistication? If you are not, well, I will support you while you try it out for the first time.
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Donna Long is a travel writer, blogger, adventurer and seeker of the new and unusual experiences in life. Donna has traveled to 13 different countries and 25 different US states and counting! You can follow her blog at www.whatsnewadventure.wordpress.com or connect with her at Twitter, google+, Instagram or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org