Sometimes the children expressed a desire to taste food prepared for the staff and different from theirs. In the case of olives, they said, “Whitemen’s food doesn’t taste good.”
-- Learning to Like Muktuk: An Unlikely Explorer in Territorial Alaska by Penelope S. Easton, published by OSU Press.
Easton first went to Alaska after serving in WWII. She was working as a "dietary consultant" for the Alaskan Health Department and was fascinated by the foods of indigenous Alaskans, such as muktuk (strips of whale skin and blubber). She learned about Native Alaskan peoples and their food cultures, appreciating that public health personnel should know and honor the dietary traditions and adaptations of the region. Easton became an advocate for preserving native food customs.
Using her detailed field reports, photographs, letters, and personal memories, Learning to Like Muktuk provides a rare description of native Alaskan foodways from the period between the end of WWII and statehood.
I love these kind of "random memoirs" about ordinary people doing interesting things. Easton returned to Alaska for further reasearch from 1996 through 2005. She now lives in Durham, North Carolina, where she wrote this book, her first, at the age of ninety-one.
GIFT GUIDE: I'd recommend Learning to Like Muktuk for those interested in Alaskan history, indigenous food, and adventure travel with a vintage vibe.
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