Ordering Sushi in Rural Alaska

We’ve had a busy week. The first quarter is ending, and grades and progress notes are due. Plus we’ve been getting ready for Halloween. So another teacher and I decided to skip cooking for one night and order food instead. 

This morning we called Chopstix, an Asian restaurant in Bethel, Alaska, to place the order. At 5:30 pm we got a call that our food was on the way. I took the school truck to the airport.  

 The plane landed just as I got there. It was “the big plane” — a Cessna 208 (with a center aisle) as opposed to a tiny 207.  

 This happy little box holds dinner for two people.  

 My two rolls, plus my half of the $25 freight charge, cost $40.40.  

 It was so worth it! 

House Tour

Most school districts in rural Alaska lease furnished housing to teachers. My district is no exception. Today I want to share some pics with you, my dear readers. outside of houseAnd here it is! This shade of red is a common paint color in Alaska.entry to houseI’m lucky to have a roof over my front steps so they don’t get too slippery. The blue tote stores garbage until I can get to the dump.

view from the porch I’m also lucky to have a nice view from my porch 🙂

Moving inside… arctic entry This is called an arctic room or arctic entry — like a foyer, but less fancy. Basically, it’s a small room that separates the front door (brrr) from the rest of the house.

living room Take a right, and you’re in the living room.

shelf with items from Alaska wilderness A bookshelf in the corner holds some items from the Alaska wilderness: driftwood from the Yukon River, an unidentified green rock found on the beach in Gustavus, and a fossil.

birch tree paintingOn Labor Day weekend I made this artwork for my dining area. I painted the sky with a paper towel and the birch trees with an old credit card! Click here to learn how to make your own.

kitchen Here’s the kitchen. The art above the sink was made by Pat Minock, a local artist. He invited me to his house last spring to look at his prints. He’s a really nice guy with interesting stories. You can see and buy his art here.

hallway This is the hallway. To the left: pantry, roommate’s bedroom (not pictured), and my bedroom. To the right: kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room. At the end: spare bedroom.

pantry It’s hard to keep this space organized, especially when you buy groceries in bulk.

bathroom The bathroom is not too interesting, but it’s clean!

bedroom Most of my decorating efforts occur in my bedroom. I got the tapestry to hide some of the wood paneling.

bedroom  The curtain hides my closet.

top of dresser
photos on twine I have a few mementos on top of my dresser and some pictures hanging above.

laundry room The hottest room in the house: the boiler/washing machine room…

storage room  storage room…and through the door on the far end, the coldest room (which is really an attached shed): the storage/dryer room.

spare bedroom Finally, the spare bedroom.

I hope you enjoyed touring my humble abode! Feel free to leave questions in the comments.

Moose Chili

When life gives you spaghetti sauce…make chili!
IMG_3898

You see, grocery shopping in rural Alaska can be tricky. Freight to this distant location is expensive, so local stores mark up the prices by 200-300%. I bought a bunch of groceries on Amazon and at the Anchorage Wal-Mart ahead of time, but it’s hard to know what/how much you’ll want to eat for a whole semester. (My frozen broccoli was gone in about two weeks!) And I forgot one important item that local stores don’t carry: tomato juice.

With the weather getting colder (10 degrees at the moment), I’ve been craving chili. Too bad…or so I thought. During last week’s trip to the AC, I found pasta sauce that was about to expire; I scored it for half off (about $2 per can)! And since necessity is the mother of invention, I decided to try making chili with what I have.

  • did remember to buy chili beans and chili powder in Anchorage.
  • do (for the moment) have running water.
  • Several locals have given me moose meat.

I mixed some water, chili powder, beans, and scrambled moose in with the pasta sauce to simmer. After it cooked for a while, I thought it still looked and smelled like, well, pasta sauce and beans. So I added my new favorite ingredient — green Tabasco — and some quinoa to make a heartier mealIMG_3901I topped it with some shredded cheese ($16 for a 2lb. block) and sour cream ($4.50 for a small container). It turned out pretty well!

It just goes to show…if you find yourself in a situation where you have moose meat but no tomato juice (ha!), you CAN make chili. 😉chili in bowl

Free Meat

Hello, all the way from Pilot Station, Alaska!

I’d like to start by apologizing for the lack of updates. I’ve faced a series of obstacles in connecting to the Internet, and since I’m in a remote location, the only thing to do is be patient. I’ll do my best to catch you up over the next few posts.

Note to Mom: I know how you feel about dead animal pics, so you might not wanna read this 🙂

Soon after our arrival in the village, we learned that Alaska Fish and Game leaves free fish by the dock twice a day. A little before 8:00 one evening, we hiked down to the Yukon River, bucket in tow.

cliff on Yukon River
It’s a beautiful river, by the way.

Yukon River dock

Then we waited for the boat.

boat coming in

Sometimes it brings lots of fish (60 one evening!), and sometimes it shows up empty. So we always make sure the locals get fish before we take any. Alaska Fish and Game will bring fish like this until the end of September.

I named my first salmon Loretta.

salmopn

Then Eddie, the husband of another new teacher, showed me how to gut and fillet it.

Eddie cutting salmon

My turn!

Brittney cutting fish

I looked like I’d murdered someone by the time I finished.

after cleaning a salmon

But I had about 10 servings of salmon.

salmon pieces

This past weekend, a student came to my door with a gift: all four legs of a moose!

moose quarters

His grandmother, one of the elders of the community, asked him to share his first moose of the season with the teachers. Jessica and I shared one leg.

cutting a moose

It took us about an hour to cut up. After splitting this leg with Jessica, I gave about a third of my half to some teachers who didn’t get a leg. And STILL, I ended up with 9 bags of meat!

Eddie estimates that one leg of a moose is more meat than an entire deer.

bagged moose

I ordered a meat grinder so I can use the meat like hamburger this winter.

Our Assistant Instructional Leader (AKA Assistant Principal) cooked some up right away. Then he, another teacher, and I brought the meal to the home of the student and grandmother who gifted us with moose. This is the customary way of thanking people for sharing with us.

I feel blessed to have so much meat in my freezer for the long winter ahead. Even more so, I feel blessed to live in a sharing community. In such a harsh and remote climate, cooperation is the only way to survive. At new teacher orientation, we were even cautioned not to encourage competition in the classroom because it goes against the values of our students and their families. The sharing nature of these people is just one of many characteristics I’m learning to love about the Yup’ik culture.

Sprout Beans: Practicing for Alaska, Part 2

before and after bean sprouts

A couple weeks back, I mentioned that it’s difficult to get perishable foods in rural Alaska. Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the rarest foods in village stores. To avoid getting scurvy, I thought I should learn to grow some of my own food.

Bean sprouts are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in the winter because they don’t require dirt or sunlight. I bought small samples of 12 different bean varieties from Sprout House; the pictures in this post are of “protein mix,” made of mung beans and garbanzo beans.

I used this tutorial to turn a regular mason jar into a super awesome sprouting machine! I just traced the lid on some plastic needlework canvas and cut it out.

making bean sprouter

I put 1/3 cup of beans in the jar and filled the jar halfway with room-temperature water. Then I set the little circle of plastic needlework canvas on top of the jar and secured it with the ring. The beans had to soak overnight.

bean sprouts day 1

After the beans were done soaking, I drained the water through that handy plastic lid. Then I rinsed beans with fresh water, drained again, and set the jar on its side. (This picture is a little deceiving because you shouldn’t set the jar in a window; I just needed the sunlight to take a good picture!)

bean sprouts day 2

I rinsed and drained twice a day to keep the beans wet enough to sprout. After about 2.5 days, my jar was full. The transformation was amazing!

Here I stir fried my sprouts with some quinoa and canned white beans for a protein-packed dinner. I also plan to make lo mein by mixing them with ramen noodles and canned bamboo shoots. And of course, I can add them to a tuna sandwich on my homemade bread!

quinoa and bean sprouts

I’m not sure if this counts as “planting and harvesting a vegetable,” which is one item from my 30 Before 30 list. This was just a little too easy! Nevertheless, I felt proud to make a meal with the beans I had sprouted.

How would you eat bean sprouts?

Bake Bread: Practicing for Alaska, Part 1

For those of you who don’t know, I have a list of 30 activities I want do do before I turn 30. Baking bread from scratch is one item from that list. It just so happens that baking bread from scratch is a needed skill in Bush Alaska. (And by “it just so happens,” I mean that I totally created this list while looking for jobs up north, and therefore many of the activities — see the Northern Lights, go cross-country skiing, etc. — are specific to the 49th state. LOL!)

Due to slow shipping speeds, perishable food is hard to come by in the Bush. Therefore, unless I want to live on boxed macaroni and cheese, I’ll have to make a lot of food from scratch.

I thought it would be a good idea to practice baking bread and make sure I had a good recipe before I moved. Thankfully, the first recipe I tried was both easy and yummy.

rawbread

Also, I should mention that it makes a LOT!

bread

And I ate it with this yummy strawberry butter, which I’ll probably NOT be able to make in Alaska.

robpaulaThis bread recipe will work well in Alaska because the extra loaves can be frozen until I’m ready for them. But for this practice round, I got a little excited and made all four loaves to share with my friends…

Like Rob and Paula, a couple from my church who retired from teaching in Nenana, Alaska.

If you’re interested in learning more about the availability of food in Alaska, check out Alaska From Scratch. I also have a Pinterest board of recipes I can make using rural Alaska’s limited groceries.