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  #1  
Old 03-19-2004, 04:41 PM
bughunter bughunter is offline
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Stinky Eskimo Foods and Botulism

Stinky Foods are a favorite topic over at my old haunt, alt.tasteless. It amused us to no end that the Inuit will not only eat animals most cultures don't consider food, they eat parts of animals most cultures don't consider food, and then they put them in the ground and let them rot to the point that most animals don't consider it food.

So you get memorable headlines like "Stinky Beaver Blamed as 13 Fall Ill" (Anchorage Daily News Jan 19, 2001). Beaver tail fremented in an anerobic environment and served at a family reunion in Manokotak AS just about decimated the clan. (alt.tasteless cite -- Warning, some content NSFW)

And you get memorable quotes from health officials like "We had an outbreak about a year ago where quite a few people were involved, and they had all eaten stinky head." (cite)

(No, I'm not ignorant of the environmental and cultural factors that result in the consumption of unusual animals and their various parts. Nor insensitive to famine resulting in people resorting to eating food past it's freshness date. But they relish their stinky beaver... and that's fair game for ridicule.)
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  #2  
Old 03-20-2004, 10:58 PM
alaskavic alaskavic is offline
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put somethin on to fester

One summer while working in the Eskimo village of Gambell on St. Lawrence island, I got to see one of their local traditions . When a newby skin boat captain makes his first walrus kill they haul out the carcass and use a dozer to dig a shallow grave in the gravel, roll in ol Oogruk and cover over with just enough pea stone to keep away the scavengers, after a full year of festering its "Fead-On" I've been to a good number of pot-laches and other ceremonies and out of respect have always brought my own food.When someone decides the cormerant he shot is ready to eat when the twine he hung it from his rafters two months ago cuts through its fetid flesh allowing it to fall in a soggy stinky splat or the braided seal gut is "just right" cuz its bloated to the point of near bursting...that is when i thank Spam for being the gourmet cut it is.
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Old 03-20-2004, 11:50 PM
alaskavic alaskavic is offline
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my bad

My bad "Oogruk" is festered bearded seal "Aiviq" is the stinky walrus. Both equally equal in degree of "Aintneverputtinitinmymouthagainiality"
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Old 03-22-2004, 08:46 AM
RiverRunner RiverRunner is offline
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All I have to say is I'm glad I had already finished my breakfast.

RR
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Old 03-23-2004, 07:38 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Whenever we here in "civilized" Alaska read one of these stories, we all cluck in amused disgust since most of us have no understanding of the Native culture that thrives all around us. These are traditional foods made in the traditional ways. The fact that the practice is dangerous makes it no less important to the people partaking. I'm sure there are people in the world who are horrified by our intake of ground meat.
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Old 03-23-2004, 12:47 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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Well, what IS the logic behind a tradition that would ask people to eat rotten food that stinks like death? And how in the hell do they get people to actually do it? The smell alone would drop most people to the ground. How in the hell do you eat rotten meat?
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Old 03-23-2004, 03:27 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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This fascinates me. It just goes to show you how vast can be the differences between cultures.

Me, I'd possibly rather eat poo. The smell of rotting fish flesh makes me gag; my dog once rolled in something that might have made a Native Alaskan salivate, but me I nearly horked. I just cannot fathom being the first one to try this. "Mmm, that smells even worth than poo! I think I'll put it in my mouth!"

Maybe he was retarded. Yeah, that must be it. Or maybe it was like a frat brother prank: I dare you to put this in your mouth! and then they eventually got used to it. Or drunk enough. Or maybe they were all retarded.
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Old 03-23-2004, 04:40 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalhoun
Well, what IS the logic behind a tradition that would ask people to eat rotten food that stinks like death? And how in the hell do they get people to actually do it? The smell alone would drop most people to the ground. How in the hell do you eat rotten meat?
It's simply a matter of environment. If you grow up eating raw fish or fermented beaver tale, then that's what your palate accepts. They don't have to "get" people to eat it. It's a matter of what's available. In many cases it's now a matter of tradition rather than first choice, but in some villages these foods are considered a delicacy. My boss, who is an Inupiat Eskimo, is a very sophisticated person with a master's degree from Harvard Business School. But twice a year she goes whaling up north and partakes of the muktuk and whatever other foods are associated with the potlatch.

In the day, it was a matter of a combination of survival and lack of refrigeration. How else do you store food for the winter other than to bury it? While the ground never reaches what you could call a warm temperature, it also doesn't stay cold enough to refrigerate meat (at least not at a depth where you could easily recover it).
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  #9  
Old 03-24-2004, 08:35 AM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalhoun
Well, what IS the logic behind a tradition that would ask people to eat rotten food that stinks like death? And how in the hell do they get people to actually do it? The smell alone would drop most people to the ground. How in the hell do you eat rotten meat?
One feels obliged to point out that most Chinese would say exactly the same thing about cheese, substituting "milk" for the last word.
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Old 03-24-2004, 10:49 AM
Duke Duke is offline
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This kind of cuisine isn't absent from European cultures, either. In Iceland, there's a delicacy known as "rotten shark." You catch your shark, then bury it in the sand for six months. Apparently if you eat it fresh it is slightly poisonous, but the fermentation process eliminates the poison.
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Old 03-24-2004, 06:15 PM
bughunter bughunter is offline
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Originally Posted by Duke
In Iceland, there's a delicacy known as "rotten shark."
I have a friend who was an exchange student in Iceland for six months and while he adores the culture and the landscape, he was gastronomically miserable the entire time.

He arrived just in time for a wedding, and just prior to the ceremony, he found the host Father in the back yard with a lamb's head and a blow torch. The torch was for searing the flesh of the lamb's face, which guests were expecting to be available as finger food, as it is the customary dish for wedding receptions. Yes, we are going to celebrate my daughter's betrothal by communally devouring the decapitated head of a cute little baby animal. Just walk up and pinch off a hunka rare baby sheep face, son, don't be shy. But it would be very rude for you to take the eyeballs before the bride and groom had a chance to eat them first, so take care not to gobble those down.

And then there was the time he missed supper. Upon arriving home the host mother asked if he wanted some food, and he accepted, so she sat him down at the kitchen table with a plate of saltines, retrieved a gelatinous loaf from the fridge, and started slicing off hunks with a sharp knife. Suspended within the gelatin loaf were these egg-shaped orbs... very pale grey, almost white... tough and kinda gristly... And when he asked what they were, he learned that his supper was sheep testicle loaf and crackers, a delicacy.

It turns out that the Icelanders have a lot of local delicacies... and they all turn out to involve things like sheeps testicles, fish eyeballs, rams bladders, etc. Often in combination with gelatin, aspic, gravy, or some other unidentifiable slime. I'll stick to the smoked fish, TYVM...
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  #12  
Old 03-25-2004, 05:05 AM
Mathochist Mathochist is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bughunter
It turns out that the Icelanders have a lot of local delicacies... and they all turn out to involve things like sheeps testicles, fish eyeballs, rams bladders, etc. Often in combination with gelatin, aspic, gravy, or some other unidentifiable slime. I'll stick to the smoked fish, TYVM...
This veers dangerously close to lutefisk. Is there an equivalent for Godwin's Law about lutefisk?
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Old 03-25-2004, 05:13 AM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bughunter
Yes, we are going to celebrate my daughter's betrothal by communally devouring the decapitated head of a cute little baby animal.
Is it so much more abhorrent than munching down on the cute lil' lamb's dismembered legs?
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Old 03-26-2004, 03:15 PM
caray caray is offline
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Ummm... Yup.
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  #15  
Old 03-26-2004, 03:32 PM
Kalhoun Kalhoun is offline
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Originally Posted by John W. Kennedy
One feels obliged to point out that most Chinese would say exactly the same thing about cheese, substituting "milk" for the last word.
I understand cultural differences, but this here thing is deadly. It's a far cry from just eating something that's not seen in my culture. It can KILL you. And they know it can kill you because it happens a lot. I don't get it.
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  #16  
Old 04-15-2004, 10:45 PM
Sleel Sleel is offline
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Rotten Food

Uh, you guys seem to be missing a small point. Many of the foods Europeans eat are also rotten gunk or started out as rotten gunk before further processing: cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, buttermilk, sour cream, sauerkraut, bread, wine, beer, vinegar. Plus, there are a few foods like kimchi, miso soup, and tofu that we've adopted from other cultures. It's still pretty common in Europe (or for better restaurants in the US) to age meat. That means they hang it to rot for a couple weeks to a month before carving off the really slimy parts and cooking it up for dinner.

Before you say something like, "Yeah, but our rotten stuff doesn't stink," I'd also like to point out that to most Asians, fermented dairy products, like cheese, stink to high heaven. One of my Japanese friends said that when she first encountered bleu cheese dressing (which is fairly innocuous) she had to control the urge to retch. Of course, she chows down on natto, which looks like baby poo and smells like garbage, for breakfast. I myself have gotten some European cheeses which smelled like a dead body--an old one. And I liked it.

Anybody's food is weird if you didn't grow up eating it.

Some things you can get used to. I knew I'd adapted pretty well to Japan when I realized the fish market smell was making me hungry. I still can't stand natto though. I have a feeling rotten beaver would be in the same category. But then, the Eskimo might feel the same way about my gorgonzola.
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  #17  
Old 04-16-2004, 11:26 AM
John W. Kennedy John W. Kennedy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleel
It's still pretty common in Europe (or for better restaurants in the US) to age meat.
It is universal in the US and UK to age beef. The only time I ever ate unaged beef in my life was in Puerto Rico, 40 years ago, and I gather PR has changed since then.
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  #18  
Old 04-19-2004, 07:03 PM
bughunter bughunter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleel
Anybody's food is weird if you didn't grow up eating it.
Yes, but my weird food is not called "Stinky Beaver." Therein lies my point in a nutshell.

(Although, I suspect there are cultural circles where food names like "blue cheese" and "twinkies" may be equally entertaining.)
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