Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gifts of friendship

One of the things I love most about the culture around here is how casual people are about sharing. I return to my car at the end of the day and find a bag of berries on the windshield from a friend who'd stopped by on her way back from hiking. My then-landlord stops by to make a repair and leaves behind a whole frozen salmon. I always make extra baked goods to take to campus and share with friends and colleagues.

Yesterday I got a call from friends who'd just gotten their moose for the year, asking if I'd like the scraps and bones for the dogs. Sometimes I think people forget that I only have two dogs! I informed them that I'd only take a bit for my girls, and pass the rest on to a friend of mine who, with his wife, rescues dogs from the local shelter that they can't bear to see put to sleep. They have a giant dog yard, but don't run a team. Their dogs are all pets.

I drove over to their beautiful ridgeline property after work and left with this:

You can't even see what we'd stuffed into trash bags into the back seat--the upper jaw and nose, the vertebral column (cut into sections, for my convenience), and two bags of fur-covered hide for the (outdoor) dogs to lay on. I asked, were they sure they wanted to pass on the upper jaw? They didn't want to make moose nose jelly? They declined.

As I left, they also loaded me up with packages of (human-grade) moose meat and salmon. On the way back to campus to drop off the moose bits to my friend, I bumped into another friend, and gave her half the salmon. She doesn't eat land animals, so I kept all the moose!

So now, in addition to the blueberries (one quart of which I still owe to a friend), cranberries, kale, pumpkin, and miscellaneous leftovers and pastries, these are in my freezer:

I certainly feel well-loved and well-fed! Yes, this is still modern America, and I can buy almost anything I want, from saffron threads to rice milk, angus beef to pomegranates to star fruit, at Freddies. But it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to pull these things out of the freezer in January. When it's cold and dark, and all the trees are dormant, and it seems all of nature is asleep, it's a reminder that God has blessed the Alaskan Interior with as much life and sustenance as anywhere else--you just have to plan ahead to enjoy it.

Here is a front-page article from the Minor News on Wiley, a sled dog who was found wandering stray, is being socialized to be a pet, but needs help with his medical bills.


b said...

what's from 2009? that's kinda old...


moose murderer!

Arvay said...

Oh, you're a vegetarian now?


Cow, chicken, and pig murderer!

Rena said...

So how are moose braises? One of my fav cuts of beef are the shanks (legs) with the marrow and the bone and the meat that you have to simmer for forever until they're tender. I wonder if moose have shanks and if they're tasty?
Do moose have short ribs like cows? Or if you're not a bone-gnawer, then the bacon area around the stomach?
And can you get moose cheeks like I've heard people get beef cheeks?

Just wondering how they're structured and butchered...

Debs said...

I do like the sound of that culture, which only seems to exist in more remote areas now. I will visit Alaska one day, definitely. My first visit to the US is next week (New England, for a wedding) and I can't wait!

Arvay said...

For Rena:

I've come a long way from being a vegetarian, but one thing I still adhere to: I will absolutely not eat factory-farmed meat. It's either got to be sustainably hunted, or humanely raised.

Moose do have all the same parts as domestic cows (in fact, they are called cows/bulls rather than bucks/does), but they are so huge that most bone-in cuts become quite unmanageable. :)

Anonymous said...

I know an elk is not a moose, but I still think now would be an excellent time to revisit "Dogs in Elk":

Arvay said...

Haha! That is one of my favorites, as well as "Beet pulp safety warning":

Did you know that in Europe, they call moose elk and elk wapiti? It's very confusing! Just when I was over the fries/chips/crisps and the cookie/biscuit thing! And "tea" being a meal!

mdr said...

Glad to see your friends are nice to you and I know you are nice to them too. Just make sure your freezer works well for all the food. Have a wonderful winter.

mdr said...

Now you have so much meat, I would give the 2009 meat to dogs, old meat has freeze bite and does not taste good.

Rena said...

Ahh so there -are- shanks on a moose - lovely lovely cut! Thanks for the article on how to break down the moose. So interesting. I'm surprised at the pickled tongue part, though. I've had lots of beef tongue and I'd never dream of pickling it - it's so fatty and gelatinous and delicate. Mmmmmmm

Anonymous said...

Sharing is one of the most important values that the indigenous people of the Aleutian Chain lived by. I am sure it was that way throughout the rest of the north lands. We teach our youngsters to share their hunting and gathering windfalls with especially those not able to easily hunt and gather for themselves. It is always heartening to see teenagers passing on that trait to youngsters. And sharing is such a necessity in a place as environmentally challenging as Alaska that it is a value that is now shared by those who have come to call this their home. I need your address so that I can share some salmonberry jelly with you.

b said...

that doesn't make you any less of a moose murderer.

moose murderer!

b said...

(i only find it ironic since you are constantly admiring your meese in your yard and their meese babies)

Arvay said...

Well, I find it ironic that you financially support factory farms, but find it abhorrent to accept moose meat and scraps from a friend who had sustainably hunted an animal whose natural predators had been thinned. And that you would evidently prefer that those scraps go to waste, rather than feed rescued dogs, since that makes the deliverer a "moose murderer."

Honestly, I think the only way a person can be against responsible hunting and still be consistent with oneself is if (1) you are a strict vegetarian and (2) you are okay with large predators, such as wolves and mountain lions, living in human-populated areas and keeping the population of prey animals down.

Otherwise, you are either not thinking, or you are indulging in hypocrisy.

I also find no inconsistency in admiring one animal and eating another. You have pets, and you also have meat on your table, yes? There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving what belongs to you, and not loving what doesn't. So people get attached to their family milk cow, but eat other cows. And yes, I like my neighborhood meese, and I eat other meese.

I am absolutely gobsmacked that you can judge me so harshly when you regularly support factory farms. The cruelty and suffering, not to mention ecological damage, that occur at those facilities are things I can neither accept nor support.

Anonymous said...

"You have pets, and you also have meat on your table, yes? There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving what belongs to you, and not loving what doesn't. So people get attached to their family milk cow, but eat other cows. And yes, I like my neighborhood meese, and I eat other meese."

I've struggled with this one for a while. Rabbit meat is delicious. REALLY delicious - to me. It used to be the case that if rabbit was on the menu somewhere, I would order it without hesitation. When I got my two buns, I stopped eating rabbit. Since they were both "rescue" buns, and since one came from a horrible situation in which her littermates were butchered and eaten in front of her, I could not in good conscience continue to eat other rabbits.

I do not, however, look down on other people who eat rabbit. Unlike most of the rabbit rescue folks, I'm not vegetarian, and (ghast!) also not on an anti-rabbit-meat crusade. (Rabbit FUR is another matter.)

The reality is that rabbits are at the bottom of the food chain. That my rabbits will live to a freakishly old age in the comfort of my home instead suffering in the maws of a dog, coyote, wolf, fox, cat, bird of prey, etc., doesn't change reality for the 99.99999% of other rabbits on the planet.

Cows and pigs are adorable. I like chickens, too. If I owned any of those animals of pets, it would probably significantly cramp my enjoyment of those meats. But that's me. (And since I don't have a pet cow, I have no guilt associated with eating any other cows, and think I will have a burger for dinner.:)

Arvay said...

I'm with you there. I could afford to be more judgmental about killing animals when I was a vegetarian, but that just isn't the case any more.

Only Americans can mentally afford to separate 'pet animals' from 'food animals' because we eat rabbit meat and horse meat, and interact socially with our livestock, much less frequently that other cultures do. So we put up an artificial mental barrier.

Having pets while eating other animals doesn't bother me as much as it used to. I used to feel guilty about cheerfully eating cows while finding other cultures' eating dogs abhorrent. But now I'm okay with it and at peace with my own feelings. Dogs are family members, beef cattle are not, end of story.

I know what you mean about rabbit rescue folks! They are mostly vegetarian, but beyond that, a wee bit quirky. Kind, warm, big-hearted, and generous, but also a wee bit odd. :)