Things I Won’t Eat
RACHEL ATTITUQ QITSUALIK
There are few things as personal as deciding what one considers acceptable to eat.
I’m writing this because someone recently mailed me to asking what a warble fly larva — a delicacy in some parts of the Arctic — is called in Inuktitut.
I supplied the name, tuktuup kumanga, which translates roughly as “caribou lice.” I must confess that I have never partaken of the little critters, and probably never will. For those of you who are fond of them, bon appetit!
I cannot judge. My own criteria for what is edible is completely arbitrary, having a sort of private logic. For example, I will not eat whale meat — it’s too much like eating a sentient being. Paradoxically, muktaaq, the skin of the whale, is one of my favourite delicacies.
For similar reasons of apparent sentience, I could never eat horse, cat, raccoon, dog, or wolf meat — though all are savoured somewhere in the world.
There are some foods that at best turn me off due to alien colour or consistency, and others that are just plain disgusting. The “off-putting” list mainly consists of: yellow custard (which reminds me of something so fantastically gross that it can’t even be mentioned here), canned beans, sauerkraut, coleslaw, and those weird supermarket jelly salads that have marshmallows in them. I label such things, “Oscar the Grouch food.”
However, the infinitely disgusting list (or what I like to call, “What were you thinking?” foods) consists only of the various beetle and worm delicacies that are popular the world ’round. I would like to say that the worst are the sort that are eaten raw, but even the cooked ones compensate in hideousness by thrashing about as they are prepared.
But there are always variations, special conditions for each animal. Snakes and other reptiles I could probably handle, depending upon which body part I was eating. Same goes for anything from the sea. I even promise to try it raw, if it is traditionally consumed that way.
Speaking of sea and raw, I love sushi (that’s where my dollars go when I feel like a treat), not only because it reminds me of my own native foods, but also because of the ambiance and relaxing surroundings of Japanese restaurants.
Polar bear: I can eat only a bit of it before it becomes too much for me.
Caribou and Arctic char: I can never get enough of them, in whatever state they come in — dried, aged, frozen, whatever.
Seal: It has to be young — not a smelly old bull. And I prefer it fresh, as opposed to aged.
Walrus: I can handle about one bite. Some of my friends are walrus meat addicts, but I was simply not brought up on it.
Rabbits: They just look too much like little people when they’re skinned. Besides, I’m allergic to white meat (at Christmas dinners, I have to specifically request dark turkey meat).
All in all, except when my weird imagination kicks in, I think I can try just about anything safe to eat. But before I finish, I would like to address one strange food item whose origins have always pu led me. That is milk.
Don’t you think it’s a bit weird that many peoples of the world have adapted to gathering and consuming cow milk? What I’m essentially asking is: how and why did someone key on to this? It’s difficult to imagine someone — anyone, no matter how eccentric — taking the first sip and saying to the others, “This tastes pretty good, you should try it.”
Eating beef I can understand. A cow even looks like it would taste good. I remember, however, when I saw a cow on a farm for the first time; after watching them walking in their own poo, I couldn’t eat beef for a while.
But I’m fully recovered now. Now that it’s summer, I can’t get steaks on the barbecue grill fast enough. But I just don’t get it with the milk.
As a final note, I can understand eating veggies and fruit quite well. They’re not only tasty, but they look good as well, so if you’re not going to eat them right away, you can use them as decoration for your kitchen. Fortunately, fruit is a delicacy in any culture. Apple anyone?