October 19, 2009

From whiskers to flippers...and all points in between.

Well, this is the deal...after several frustrating hours trying to post some awesome videos - and I do mean hours - I retired for the night convinced I would have to try building a new blog and linking the two.
Anyway, today is a new day. I woke up to snow, zero visibility, a cup of coffee, and new resolve - 'I will figure this out' was my chant as I washed my face, got dressed, poured my coffee, and turned on this ancient laptop. And, ta da! I don't know what happened, so don't ask. As far as I can tell the whole thing went back to a previous version of blogger which didn't support all the extras...I thought that, with all the screen warnings, I had erased it somehow. So I ask again: does anyone know how to post more than a video with this new version? Do I have to link to youtube? That would suck. Stephanie and Jordan: how do you do it?

OK, now on to the more interesting stuff. A couple of days ago I was able to procure a seal from one of the local hunters, whiskers'n'all. I figured it'd be a great way to spend the afternoon as well as a great way to get some close-up pictures to help us in biology class (which, of course, I won't post due to graphic content). I arrived at the school in the morning with my keys and a truck, ready to pick the beastie up across town (I figured carrying it flung over my shoulder like a Fred Flintstone club or under my arm like an oversized football probably wouldn't be the best idea). However, as I drove up, I could see that it was just hanging out there - a bit frozen - waiting for me. With some help from a few students, we moved him onto a huge, broken-down cardboard box in the 'home ec' class. We let it thaw for the morning, flipping it at break, and by 1pm it was all systems 'go'...perfect seal, sharp hunting knives (sorry, don't really know the name), several ulus, the oh-so-important blade sharpener, garbage bags, and the skin prep board (sorry, don't know the name for that contraption either; it kinda looks like a writing board you can use in front of the tv).

I haven't really been a part of skinning or cleaning a previously living animal (a family full of teachers - go figure), so I didn't really know what to expect; quite honestly, I thought there would be blood everywhere. With a seal, though, there is so much fat it was more like peeling a mango with a small kitchen knife. Oh, the students weren't crazy enough to let me try it at first, but check out this picture.  Don't you think it looks like a grub-like mango when you try to cut the pieces off the pit instead of slicing cubes on the peel?

This first part is traditionally the job of the men...they would catch the seal, slice it, take out the internal organs and a few of the ribs, then give it to the women on a make-shift platter. The majority of the ribs went to the guys (some things never change) as well as a few prime pieces of the organs...these would all be piled on top of the blubber which was used as a type of plate. In the picture to the left, you can see the circle of sealskin acting like a furry placemat. In the rear, you can see a pile of organs and meat on a blue tray...that's for the women. If I could, somehow, post my videos I have a great clip which shows how the first picture progresses to the second!

At this point, I had to pass my camera along to someone else and taste some of the spoils before they completely disappeared...

Now, I like my steak done medium rare, but if I'm in a nice steakhouse I'll go for the rare. One of my friend's from my university days likes hers 'blue rare', but I could never get into it. Well, rare steak be damned...I eat my seal raw. What was strange about it was that, though the taste of meat is more familiar to me, I found eating the seal eyeballs and flippers much easier.

Next? Dessert. Anyone in the north knows how common it is to go berry-picking; when the weather is nice, it takes precedence over any other previous engagement (including work). Blackberries. That's what they're called. However, when I think of blackberries I think of a raspberry's darker cousin. Here a 'blackberry' is more like a tiny, firm, and moderately sweet blueberry. At this time of year, I'm sure there's not one freezer in town without a bag or two.

Blubber'n'Berries: This is how it works...when the feast has finished and the rest of the meat and organs have been stored for later use, the blubber - still on its sealskin mat - gets scored by a few blades...criss-crossed here and there. Next, blackberries are poured and spread over the top. The scores ensure that all the berries will get covered in the oil...surprisingly 'sweet' oil. Don't ask how that works...I really don't know. What I know is that I cook with a lot of different oils, and this one definitely smells sweet.

At this point, it's really important that everything gets mixed together; having a bite with too much oil, berries, or blood is like biting into a cake and hitting a huge glob of baking soda. Not cool.

I actually liked this little concoction and, as surprising as it might sound (vegetarians and PETA hardcore advocates, please stop reading), I think the blood actually made the difference. It was more than just 'oily berries'. I'm not saying I would choose it over strawberries with real whipped cream, but I can see how it's a nice way to clean your palette after such heavy meat.

After all the berries are gone, the blubber is scraped clean and prepared for the final skinning. My next post will show you my mad skillz weilding an ulu...


Marc Phillion said...

Geez Tara, you impress me more with every entry! Go girl! I imagine that you'll have to go hiking or something to work off the blubber...? By the way, I'll never look at mangos the same way, haha! Thanks :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi I am an Ice analyst at the Canadian Ice Service normally we use RADAR images to do an ice chart of Pangnirtung Fiord..we don't have any today...so can you tell me is there sea ice on the fiord yet? If so what percentage of the water that you can see is covered? The thickness is??

Haz said...

First off, holy shit-balls I never thought I'd be seeing posts like this coming outa you ;). I'm trying to ward Kristie off one's like these as best I can. Excuse the pun, but you've got guts girl.

Secondly, your video woes. I may be able to provide a pointer or two:

1. You need to host them some place. Youtube, Flickr, etc. You need to put them somewhere before embedding them. Personally we throw our vids on Flickr (eg. http://tinyurl.com/yl55det ), but we have a subscription to that site. You could get away with Youtube by just using your google account.

2. Once you have the video uploaded, you need to fetch the embed code. This is a chunk of html that will let you put the video into any website (including a blog post). Most video sites will have the button clearly visible, but here's the location for our two examples:

.Flickr: Once you're at the page to watch a video, click on the 'Embed' button. This will show a chunk of text at the bottom that you can copy / paste.

.Youtube: Once you're at the page to watch a video, there are two fields under the video description (on the right). One is 'Url' and the other is 'Embed'. If you click on the text area next to embed, it will highlight it all. This is what you want to copy / paste.

3. Now you've got your code (you elite hacker you), so it's time to insert it into a blog post. Blogger can be finicky so this is what I've done to make it work the smoothest way:

3.a) Write your post including images and text. Leave a note for where the video will go (like "PUT VID HERE").

3.b) Once done editing, click on the 'Edit HTML' button. This should be near the top, just to the left of 'Compose'.

3.c) You're now editing the actual code of your post. Scroll to the spot where you see "PUT VID HERE", delete that, and paste in your video code that you copied in step 2.

3.d) Click back on 'Compose', save, and publish away.


Hope this helps -- it's the easiest method I've found (although I wouldn't call it easy :p). Good luck.

Tara Muise said...

chitch, you rock my world! i'll try to work through this as soon as i get the chance...oh, and those are the ones (with the videos) that you should block from kristie's big doe eyes. it's not like hunting in the south, though, and the animal is given a lot of respect; before the whole procedure most traditional inuit will thank it for its sacrifice.

Matt, Kara, Hunter and Cavan said...

Great post! Love the part about the berries. I never saw anyone do that in our community! But caribou was the main food there. Most seal was fed to the dogs!