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Acquired Tastes

Acquired Tastes

A dash of bacteria is just what that meat needs need to taste delicious
By Francis Tessier-Burns
Jun 30
2016
From the June 2016 Issue

Eating the same meat day after day could grow boring without herbs and spices. So how did the Inuit traditionally keep their food interesting? They used (and still do) nature’s flavour-makers: bacteria. Some food could be prepared through controlled fermentation, like kiviaq: dead birds wrapped in seal skin. Hundreds of birds, usually auks, are stuffed—beaks, feet, feathers and all—into a seal skin. Then air is squeezed out and the skin was sewn shut then covered with fat to keep flies away, and the bag was then left for several months. The anaerobic conditions allow the birds to ferment without spoiling, making them extremely tender. Their bones turn to an almost liquid state, and everything is eaten except the feathers. These types of meals, which can be left on the land for months at a time, would double as food reserves if there was a shortage of available meat.

And what’s a good meal without dessert? Akutaq is "Inuit ice cream" made from grinding caribou fat, then adding liquefied seal fat and some water. The concoction is mixed and fluffed, then sweetened by adding different types of berries. Voilà!