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Posts Tagged ‘ulu’

To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

In the morning Maggie and I skinned the batch of squirrels caught the
day before. She gave me a small ulu
(eskimo knife made from old an saw blade with a bone or ivory handle) to
skin with (I still have it). The squirrels were first gutted then
skinned cutting around the muzzle then down to the tail.

I gained more respect from the ladies when they saw that the insides
of my squirrels were clean. In other words, when pulling the hearts I
did not leave a bloody mess. I had no idea I had such natural squirrel
killing skills. Considering my first appalling reaction to the idea of
pulling a poor animal’s heart from it’s artery and how difficult it was
the first time for me but more so for the squirrel, I was surprised to
find I had a knack.

Naturally, for dinner we had squirrel — head and feet and liver
intact. I give loads of credit to my parents for training me to eat
whatever was set before me at the dinner table. Mother often made
chicken gizzards for dinner and baked extra turkey necks for
Thanksgiving because we all loved them. Mother tried for years to
disguise liver as it was the one food none of us could manage. As soon
as an unrecognizable piece of meat was placed on the table, we knew it
had to be liver. I was eventually well received at my Aunt and Uncle’s
home because I would eat what Maggie fixed — and it wasn’t typical white
food. At “squirrel camp”, however, I had my first gag response to the
food.

The smell of squirrel I had killed, gutted and skinned baking in a
pot made me a little nauseous. Then to serve it lying on its back, black
eyes like bb’s, mouth agape, legs and toes in the air on my plate, I
had to force myself to engage in eating. For the first time in Alaska, I
told the cook I could not eat everything on my plate. I could not eat
the mashed liver mixed with blueberries laying in the squirrel’s cavity.
I risked a scowl from Belinda, but none was forthcoming. Maggie giggled
— the suburban white girl finally showed up.

One afternoon, back in Golovin, I came into the kitchen where Maggie
was cooking something on the stove. It was a black something filling the
pot and rising above the rim. Water simmered around the edges spitting
droplets out onto the stove. It smelled wild and earthy. Upon closer
inspection the vague contours eventually took shape. Water bubbled and
steam rose through two large holes. Finally I was able to recognize what
it was. Just then Maggie sliced a thin layer off the top with an ulu
and popped the softened slice in her mouth then smiled. She asked if I
wanted to try. No pride in the world could make me accept the offer to
eat a piece. “No,” I said, “I don’t eat moose nose.” Maggie giggled.

copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

A day's catch

A day's catch and ready to be cleaned and skinned

Me skinning squirrels

Me skinning squirrels in the sun with the ulu Maggie gave me.

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