Monday Morning Musings

Posted on September 27, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet


A whale of a tale


“Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,

Swim so wild and you swim so free,

Heaven above and the sea below,

And a little white whale on the go.”

Baby Beluga – Raffi

On the weekend, I had a whale of a time- beluga whale to be more precise. I don’t mean to burst Raffi’s bubble or that of his legion of young fans, but those same adorable and playful white whales are a very important part of an Inuit’s diet. Belugas migrate from the south in the spring from May to July and in the fall from the north around October/November. This means that they could make an appearance any time now and I will have a bird’s eye view when they arrive. This causes a great stir in the village because it means there will be lots to eat in the winter ahead.

Many of us are still carnivores. Old habits die hard and when you are raised on beef, pork and chicken, your diet tends to stay with you for a lifetime. With apologies to you vegetarians and vegans, I still relish a great steak, a roast beef dinner, or a hamburger cooked on the barbeque. Sometimes I think I’m a hypercarnivore or apex predator.

However, being a Maritimer and having grown up close to the ocean, I also love fish and all manner of seafood. Is there anything tastier than a halibut steak, a feed of fish and chips made with fresh Atlantic cod, scallops, mussels and the crème de la crème, lobsters?

I live close to the sea now. At high tide, I am only about 100 metres from the water’s edge. I can go and pick mussels at will at low tide. I had some the other day, and they were fabulous. One of my dreams is to go mussel picking under the ice in a few months’ time. At low tide, a hole will be drilled in the ice and those who are not claustrophobic can crawl down onto the floor of the bay and pick mussels to their hearts content, all the while keeping close tabs on the tide. I know it sounds risky, but the Inuit have been doing this a long time and I think if anybody knows about tides, it is the local people.

Last week I was treated to arctic cod which are also plentiful in the bay. Many people fish right off the end of the wharf at town point. I took the easy way out. I chopped up some onion, fresh garlic, and lemon and stuffed them in the cavity of the cod. I wrapped it in foil and tossed it into a 400-degree oven. I cooked some baby potatoes, carrots and asparagus. It was a fairly simple meal but quite tasty.

As many of you know, I am living in a house at the far end of the village. I no longer live on Sesame Street, a nickname for the street where most of the Qallunaat (white people) teachers live. A work colleague is on sabbatical, and I was the lucky one who ended up getting her home. She was looking for someone older and more mature to look after her place. The older part, I have down cold! The setup couldn’t be any better. I will get to witness some fierce winter storms that will sweep down the mountains and across the bay. I might have to invest in a pair of cross-country skis or snow shoes to make it out of the house to school when it’s really stormy.

In addition to providing me with great internet (not a phrase you hear often in the north), Sirius radio and many other amenities, my friend also told me to take anything that I wanted form the freezer in her fridge. The freezer is a unit at the bottom of the fridge. After multiple attempts at putting a frozen boxed pizza in the freezer, I discovered that there were actually two units for frozen food. For god sake, don’t tell my students. They’re still not sure if I’m a teacher and this would certainly blow my cover.

A few days ago, I took a frozen package out of the freezer. I swear that it looked exactly like two quesadillas rolled up and hard as a rock. Once thawed, I realized that this was not a Mexican treat but fish. It looked like beluga but just to be certain, I took a picture and showed it to one of the Inuk teachers. She started smacking her lips.”Mattaq”, she said. Typically, mattaq is beluga blubber that is eaten frozen and raw. I tried some at a staff Christmas party a few years ago. I think it might be an acquired taste (!) but apparently eating raw beluga is a great source of energy when winter turns bitterly cold.

Because the beluga I had in my possession was already thawed, I asked my colleague for cooking tips. She told me that I could boil it in salty water or cut it into strips and pan fry it with onions and fresh garlic. While watching the Ryder Cup yesterday at Chad and Emma’s we did just that. Five of us sampled the beluga. It didn’t have a fishy taste at all. We all agreed that it had the texture of calamari, but the taste was hard to pinpoint. It wasn’t super tasty, but it wasn’t at all unpleasant. I quite liked it but then again, I was the only one of 10 in our family who liked eating liver. I guess I don’t have a discerning palate. My friend (and teacher!) Mary tells me that fermented beluga, called igunaq, is “yummy.”

I was hoping to turn a new leaf this fall by moving towards a more plant-based diet but as long as there are treasures from the sea so close at hand (along with caribou meat – my favourite), my best and possibly only chance at becoming a vegetarian is after reincarnation!

Have a great week.

P.S. I have started using medical marijuana (CBD oil +THC) for chronic pain. No, I won’t be turning off all the lights, lighting candles and listening to the Dark Side of the Moon. It’s not meant to give you a high. This particular concoction is to help with sleep. So far, so good. Sweet dreams!


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