Museum hopes to collect enough Alutiiq recipes for cookbook

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2003

KODIAK (AP) -- Do you think you have the best family recipe for akutak? Don't even know what akutak is?

It's a favorite Alutiiq treat: ice cream made by mashing berries together with ingredients that may include seal oil, Crisco, dried fish, salmon eggs, sugar and potatoes.

The end result makes some people squirm. For others, it's no match for Ben & Jerry's.

Or, maybe you're better at whipping up something with seal stomach? Fish fins?

Whatever is your best dish, the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository wants your Alutiiq recipes.

The museum hopes to gather enough recipes to compile a cookbook, one that proudly shares both traditional Alutiiq foods and modern adaptations.

Smaller collections of Alutiiq recipes have been photocopied, stapled or bound together by at-home spiral-binding machines. But nothing recently has been collated and made available to the public.

Today, if you want a traditional recipe, you may have to track down an elder to find it. The museum's efforts will change that. The museum plans to use the recipes they collect in lessons about subsistence living and hand out the easy-to-make recipes at the museum.

Some traditional Alutiiq foods, like fermented fish heads -- affectionately called stink heads -- have fallen out of favor. But others, like sea duck stew, jams and jellies made from island berries, and anything with salmon is still very popular with Kodiak Natives, particularly in the villages.

With Russian conquest in the 18th century, Russian foods became a part of the Alutiiq life. Foods like fry bread, pirushkis (a meat pastry), or perok (a fish pie) became favorites.

As lifestyles changed, so did tastes. Whales, sea lions, bears and beach foods like chitons and limpets, are not regularly found on the dinner table anymore. But that doesn't mean the Alutiiq people have lost pride in the food that is fished, hunted and gathered.

''As a people we have a really good name. We are called the people of the sea,'' says Alutiiq Elder Iver Malutin, explaining why many of the older recipes involve fish, sea mammals, sea birds and foods collected from shallow ocean waters.

The accessibility of salmon, its ability to be preserved, and its abundance around the waters of Kodiak made it the most common staple. Fried, dried or smoked -- it was a regular part of the Alutiiq diet.

''When growing up, we didn't have any money, so we'd salt more salmon and eat potatoes from the garden,'' Malutin said. ''Little did we know that was the best thing for us.''

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