Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall in Alaska

Fall is upon us full swing. In the Yup'ik culture, its a time of gathering from the land to prepare for the long, dark, cold winter. This time of year, black berries, red berries, "mouse food" (roots), and qusuuqs (a type of fish) are harvested.
Mouse food (roots gathered by "tundra" mice and stored away in caches under the arctic tundra) is as close away as going to your nearest tundra and feeling with your foot a softish spot and digging up underneath to see if its a cache of food "tundra" mice store away. I say "tundra" mice because I'm not sure of the scientific name of the mice that inhabit the Yukon Delta area and because I don't know if its a different type of mouse/vole/lemming, etc. The one's we'd see, would be what we called "angyayaagaq" (little boats) because they would swim and look like "little boats" with their long bodies. There are three different types of roots that we would find in these caches. One is tear drop shaped, utngungsak (utngu - is wart), I guess sak (is kind of ???) and the other is negaasek - a stick-like looking root, tan in color and kind of tastes like a potato. Another is a fuzzy shaped looking root. It looks fuzzy because the rest of the roots are gnawed off the meaty part of this rectangular looking root. The root taste sweet and very yummy. These roots are added into soups or mixed into akuutaqs.
Qusuuqs are caught using a net - hundreds of them. They range from 6-9 inches in length. The fish is gutted and then "braided" with grass around the head/gill area and hung to dry. It is also boiled or baked. The livers (tenguq) are boiled and whipped and mixed with black berries. Its puce in color - and an acquired taste to enjoy.

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