My sophomore year in college I had briefly flirted with abandoning art for anthropology when the professor of a required course explained the importance of eating local cuisine. One of my special talents was the ability to eat just about anything, and in truly astonishing quantities, so I figured I was a natural for fieldwork. Fried grasshoppers and whale blubber? No problem. The secret was in the seasoning. The flirtation came to an abrupt halt with the unit on genealogical charts: patrilineal, matrilineal, affinal, fictive…. I don’t do charts (p.88).
It's true what they say about much of writing being autobiographical. I actually do have a Masters degree in anthropology (never quite finished that darned PhD...) and I always loved doing my fieldwork among different ethnic groups. I have eaten some wonderful things...and managed to nibble on some dubious items, as well. Here's a picture of me putting those skills to work again, trying seal in Hooper Bay:
The Yup'ik people of Hooper Bay continue to practice a subsistence way of life, which includes hunting and gathering the great majority of their food. Seal, Beluga whale, all kinds of fish, berries, and greens are gathered during their appropriate seasons, and then are dried or frozen and eaten all year long.
Above: The bumpy road to the airport
Before I knew it, it was time to go home. Scott, the vice-principal at Hooper Bay School, gave me a ride to the airport, which is a fancy name for a single landing strip. For a town of 1200 people, Hooper Bay has a lot of flights: at least two in the morning, and two in the evening. There are no roads across the tundra, so all goods and people have to come by plane or boat...and the boats are limited to the summertime.
Below: my ride back to Bethel