|2004-12-21 - Local cuisine & thoughts a pro
22 Dec, 04 - 01:03
GPS-pos: N67°28´ | E153°42´ | Alt: 11 M
Written by Johan Ivarsson.
21st of December today and we´re in our apartment in Srednekolymsk. It is warm today, only -33°F, but there´s a nagging cold wind from the southwest and not one single cloud can be seen on the sky.
Christmas Eve is getting closer by the day. I know that back home in Sweden, and probably all around the Christian world, everyone is busy running around, trying to get everything ready in time for Christmas. Presents has to be bought, the best Christmas tree is still to be found and all this enormous amount and variety of food we eat during this time of joy, has still to be cooked and prepared! We´re talking ham, turkey, pork, chocolate, fruits (gee, I am getting hungry just naming this delicious cuisine!) and much more can be found on the Christmas table, in different varieties and taste.
Out here in the Siberian Far East, though, everything is relaxed, quiet and as usual. Local people believe in the spiritual world, they´re animists, as most native northerner´s are. And many other people living close to nature (more of that later, in another article). So there´s not much of a Christmas feeling here. Of course. Really, the only few things that makes us aware that Christmas is approaching, is the commercials played over and over again on the only channel (broadcast from Moscow of course) we can receive on our TV. So it´s far from the commercial hysteria back home!
During our Expedition we´ve been invited to many astonishing people who´ve done everything possible to make us feel welcome and at home. They have all succeeded! What has made the biggest impression on me is the hospitality they´ve shown us. They have, with no exceptions, always offered us food and a warm place to sleep. No matter how tiny little hut they´ve lived in or how overcrowded they´ve been, they´ve always found us a place to sleep. And the many different types of local cuisine we´ve tried, it is a subject in itself!
People like the one´s we´ve met, who´ve spent over 20 years living in the taiga, know how to take care of what´s to be found in the nature. They have all learnt how to prepare and keep the natural taste of all the different types of meat and fish to be found, instead of destroying it with too much spices. During this time we´ve been offered delicacies like a tender hare soup with an extremely tasty broth together with potatoes or macaroni. The wide variety of different fish cutlets and fish soups is another favorite. All made on the big variety fish to be found in the amazing Kolyma. We´ve had a wide variety of moose meat prepared in different ways, fried, stewed and boiled. Since I love fat food, and we need fat food, another much loved dish have been bone marrow from moose whipped up into a fat, tasty gel. Lovely indeed! But, my top of the list is definitely maxa.
Maxa is frozen, raw liver from the local endemic snakelike fish called Nalim, which is cut into small pieces and dipped into salt, it´s rather like eating ice-cream, and it´s delicious! Straganina - (from another local fish called chirr, white salmon) is also eaten frozen and raw and is carved out of this fat salmon into thin and long pieces and then dipped into a mix of salt and pepper. Tasty!
If we´re lucky, at times we´ve been offered a bush dessert, a mix of fresh berries and sugar to eat while drinking the sweet and tasteful Russian tea, chai. More often than not, when it´s time to leave, they´ve given us dried fish or meat to eat along the way, and when we´ve tried to say that we can´t eat more, they shake their heads and show that they would be offended if not. There´s so much humanity that can be learned from this people!
Therefore, my final note before Christmas. One thing I do not miss from Sweden is all this complaining that people spends so much time of theirs to do, when in reality the problems they´re facing is nothing compared to all these daily obstacles people are facing here. Just the basic fact of getting food on the table every day. There´s many days when there´s no fish in the nets or when the snares are empty of hares. And, despite temperatures below -60°F they still have to go out, into the taiga to chop some wood so they´re at least able to cook and keep their houses warm. This reality is something that I think people back home should contemplate more, especially now during Christmas!