Moose Chili

When life gives you spaghetti sauce…make chili!
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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

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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.