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Inuit eating habits: eating a raw seal?


Ce'nedra
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Anyone know how this would taste like? I don't think I could be brave enough to try -it's too much of a culture shock for me. Although I don't think you could quite understand unless you are in their (an Inuit's) shoes. Obviously, they're not doing it out of cruelty but simply as a way of survival.

I only found this out through Anthony Bourdain's travel to Quebec (his tv show No Reservation)....it doesn't seem quite like sashimi :wacko:

You can see the video here if you're interested (caution -not for the light hearted): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8d8EymQPiqk

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Did I blink or did that guy really get the seal with one shot from a boat? :awe:

That was one tidy butchering job too. Granted there's a ways to go, but there is very little mess in that lady's kitchen.

Not as tidy as steak tartare or carpaccio, but it doesn't seem categorically different to me. I think I'd have more difficulty eating a chunk of blubber, because of the texture.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Anyone know how this would taste like?

I've had raw whale, and that had a sort of liver taste, and a texture like very firm fish (firm like ahi tuna, but more so.) On the exotic foods deliciousness scale, where Durian is a 10 (Yum!) and Natto is a 1, raw whale was about a 4.

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Thanks for the descriptions Kouign Aman and Teppy :raz:

For some reason, I just can't categorise this particular raw seal with something like steak tartare or sashimi...maybe I need my meat sliced...

I think it may be the way it was wolfed down (as Kouign Aman said, extremely messy) and that definately puts me off.

Hmm...yeah I do get a feeling that seal would most likely taste like whale (no idea what that tastes like...and I don't eat liver so I don't have an idea of what that tastes like either haha).

What I'm really interested in though...is what the seal's EYEBALLS tasted like :shock:

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In Seward, Alaska at the fishing dock I was filleting a halibut when a guy walked up to chat. He was originally from the mid-west, but had married an Inuit woman and moved to Alaska. The first time he met her family, he said they gave him a raw seal eyeball to eat. He thought it was more a test of manliness than any sort of honored-guest tidbit.

Of course I asked what it was like.

He said it was revolting and horrible. A burst of fishy tasting liquid, then a hard and totally unpalatable lens. He said it was much bigger than he would have ever thought, and had a flavor that would not go away. He gagged it down and had a rather substantial struggle for several minutes to keep from vomiting it back up- much to the delight of his in-laws. Ugh.

Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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In Seward, Alaska at the fishing dock I was filleting a halibut when a guy walked up to chat.  He was originally from the mid-west, but had married an Inuit woman and moved to Alaska.  The first time he met her family, he said they gave him a raw seal eyeball to eat.  He thought it was more a test of manliness than any sort of honored-guest tidbit. 

Of course I asked what it was like. 

He said it was revolting and horrible.  A burst of fishy tasting liquid, then a hard and totally unpalatable lens.  He said it was much bigger than he would have ever thought, and had a flavor that would not go away.  He gagged it down and had a rather substantial struggle for several minutes to keep from vomiting it back up- much to the delight of his in-laws.  Ugh.

WOW...I'm speechless. That was a very well done and DETAILED way of putting the taste and texture of a gigantic seal eyeball into words :shock:

Eww...well if a man can place his fear aside to do something so disgusting (to me) for a woman, he is well worth marrying! :raz:

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On Greenland the inuits eat the raw liver just after the seal is killed. There aint that many sources of viatamin C in the artic (offcourse today any supermarket have lemons and so on) so historically that was the best source of it.

Ive seen it been eaten alot of time, but being a bit to european i declined (i was a teenager, today i would do it without hesitation hehe).

Seal taste great btw :)

http://www.grydeskeen.dk - a danish foodblog :)
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On Greenland the inuits eat the raw liver just after the seal is killed. There aint that many sources of viatamin C in the artic (offcourse today any supermarket have lemons and so on) so historically that was the best source of it.

Ive seen it been eaten alot of time, but being a bit to european i declined (i was a teenager, today i would do it without hesitation hehe).

Seal taste great btw :)

Morten, what would you liken the taste of seal to? :unsure:

Btw, does that mean the liver is still...sort of 'functioning'...considering it's so fresh? .........................

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On Greenland the inuits eat the raw liver just after the seal is killed. There aint that many sources of viatamin C in the artic (offcourse today any supermarket have lemons and so on) so historically that was the best source of it.

Ive seen it been eaten alot of time, but being a bit to european i declined (i was a teenager, today i would do it without hesitation hehe).

Seal taste great btw :)

Morten, what would you liken the taste of seal to? :unsure:

Btw, does that mean the liver is still...sort of 'functioning'...considering it's so fresh? .........................

Its has a very intense flavour i havnt encounterd in any other protein. I usually ate it the traditional way like described in this article

Link

Nothing better after spending a day in the snow to get a portion of that. Any other food (even hot chocolate with a lot of sugar) was not even close to restore energy. You could literally feel it running throughout your body and it tasted great.

One thing to rember if making it - you cant use the pot for anything else after that, the taste and smell just keeps in the pot.

The liver is eaten while still warm, so if its still functioning or not i dont know.

http://www.grydeskeen.dk - a danish foodblog :)
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Vitamin C accumulates in the liver of the seal, being acquired by eating fish that eat krill that eat zooplankton that eat phytoplankton. One step up the food chain- the polar bears that eat the seal- Vitamin C levels are further accumulated to the point that they are so high they are toxic to humans. Eating polar bear liver could kill a person.

Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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In Seward, Alaska at the fishing dock I was filleting a halibut when a guy walked up to chat.  He was originally from the mid-west, but had married an Inuit woman and moved to Alaska.  The first time he met her family, he said they gave him a raw seal eyeball to eat.  He thought it was more a test of manliness than any sort of honored-guest tidbit. 

Of course I asked what it was like. 

He said it was revolting and horrible.  A burst of fishy tasting liquid, then a hard and totally unpalatable lens.  He said it was much bigger than he would have ever thought, and had a flavor that would not go away.  He gagged it down and had a rather substantial struggle for several minutes to keep from vomiting it back up- much to the delight of his in-laws.  Ugh.

WOW...I'm speechless. That was a very well done and DETAILED way of putting the taste and texture of a gigantic seal eyeball into words :shock:

Eww...well if a man can place his fear aside to do something so disgusting (to me) for a woman, he is well worth marrying! :raz:

The divorce comes when he finds out it wasn't an Inuit tradition at all, but he married into a family of practical jokers. :raz::laugh:

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Its has a very intense flavour i havnt encounterd in any other protein. I usually ate it the traditional way like described in this article

Link

Nothing better after spending a day in the snow to get a portion of that. Any other food (even hot chocolate with a lot of sugar) was not even close to restore energy. You could literally feel it running throughout your body and it tasted great.

One thing to rember if making it - you cant use the pot for anything else after that, the taste and smell just keeps in the pot.

Wow traditional Greenlandic cuisine sounds quite interesting. I wouldn't mind trying something like that as described in the article. As long as it's well cooked I don't think I'd have a problem. Have you ever tried any other Greenlandic food? I'm pretty fascinated by it now, thanks to you ;)

Well it would make perfect sense why Inuits would eat seals according to your description of its nourishment :) With the environment they live in, who wouldn't?!

The taste and smell still lingering in a pot...does that mean seals have a very gamey smell and taste? Like how mutton can be fairly smelly sometimes.

Vitamin C levels are further accumulated to the point that they are so high they are toxic to humans.  Eating polar bear liver could kill a person.

I'll keep that in mind :shock:

The divorce comes when he finds out it wasn't an Inuit tradition at all, but he married into a family of practical jokers.    :raz:  :laugh:

MUAHAHAHA! Sounds like something I'd do...shhh :unsure:

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Well its difficult to describe it. But i have had it cooked in a more western (dont know what else to call it) style too, and then its more gamey in the taste.

But the traditional way the smell from the preperation is very intense, like a duck slowly roasted in the oven all day - just with a different smell x 4 hehe.

The meet has a dark quality over it, firm even after boiled for hours and the tast kinda jump the back of your throat and fills your mouth in a very pleasent way.

offcourse its been many years since i tried it, so my memory can trick me.

The trick in making it suaasat’ is not to scim it from what we call impurities. If you live in a hunter sociaty where the only agriculture is picking berries when its season (a short one i might add) you dont want to waste any source of nutrient, especially when living in an artic area.

Ive tried other specialitys (not all is pc around the world, but none the less still tasty). Whale meat is great - as i used to say (bad joke i know) "No limit on the size of the steak!". There where noticable difference between different species.

Reindeer is delecious too. Mattak (whale blubber) as described in the link i gave earlier never was me, but i never seen people more happy about food when that was put on a table (with a bit of tabasco no less).

Fish and shrimps where amazing and fishing was fun. Especially in the wintertime through the ice.

I once saw, but was to squirmishy to try it (those damn teenage years again) a hunter take about a meter of intestine from a fresh seal and eat it . Apperently there is a section where the seals food (shrimps, fish and so on) has been digested enough to still be edible. Kinda like slightly digested sushi if i have to be visual hehe.

What fascinates me is how they utilized every part of the animal they hunted, very fascinating actually.

One thing i know my father tried, wich i allways wanted was the little auks (hope its the righ name in english) prepared in a rather special way. Ill try to give the recipe as i rember it from litterature.

At late autum catch a seal, they are fattest there. Important for the preparation.

Skin it but let the blubber stay on the skin.

Catch enough little auks to fit into the skin.

Sow the seal skin back together and keep filling it with the little auks. Be sure that all openings is well and firmly closed.

Find a moutainside that catches as much sunshine as possible. Locate a good spot, place the little auk filled sealskin there and be real carefull about putting enough rocks around and on top of it, so that foxes and Icebears (if you are that far north) cant get to it.

Let it sit there until late spring. Then when visitors drop by, pull the seal out, cut the stitches. You then take the bird (feathers and all), rub the skin and feathers aside and let the good times begin.

As i understand it the fermantation they go through makes them a bit intoxicating - so after a few dont let your visitors drive home.

One thing i dont think is a traditinal food is the meat from the jaw of Flétan noir. Absolutly delicious and havnt encounteret it since i moved from Greenland.

http://www.grydeskeen.dk - a danish foodblog :)
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On Greenland the inuits eat the raw liver just after the seal is killed. There aint that many sources of viatamin C in the artic (offcourse today any supermarket have lemons and so on) so historically that was the best source of it.

Ive seen it been eaten alot of time, but being a bit to european i declined (i was a teenager, today i would do it without hesitation hehe).

Seal taste great btw :)

Vitamin C accumulates in the liver of the seal, being acquired by eating fish that eat krill that eat zooplankton that eat phytoplankton.  One step up the food chain- the polar bears that eat the seal- Vitamin C levels are further accumulated to the point that they are so high they are toxic to humans.  Eating polar bear liver could kill a person.

One correction: it's Vitamin A that can kill you, not Vitamin C. It's pretty tough to overdose on C, which is water-soluble and easily excreted. (The same is true for B, by the way.) Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble and not so easy to eliminate, which is why they can build up to poisonous levels in the body. The polar bear liver toxicity due to higher levels of A than humans can stand has been well established, at the expense of some unfortunate explorers.

For more reading on Vitamin A toxicity, click here or, for more general vitamin A info, here.

We now return you to the regular and fascinating discussion on seal meat. Go forth and fear oranges no more. :laugh:

Nancy "protecting the citrus industry since 1954" Smith

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This is a fascinating discussion. And it's good for me to read it; while I will readily eat the meat of certain animals, I'm downright repulsed at the idea of eating certain other animals. That's called cultural bias, and although I'm aware of it, it's hard to get past it.

And now I have a new and fun cocktail party conversation-starter about polar bear livers. :biggrin:

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And now I have a new and fun cocktail party conversation-starter about polar bear livers.  :biggrin:

Ditto on that one. That said, I'd rather eat seal than water bug loin, to reference another topic floating around here somewhere. In fact, the concept of eating seal doesn't bug me very much, other than the fact that I'm not sure I'd like the taste. That eyeball description though....errrr, I'll pass on that one thanks. :wacko:

Kate

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Morten: That was a really fascinating and informative read! Thanks so much for all the details! Is your exposure to such exotic foods due to you being from Denmark? Greenland is Danish governed, I believe. So do you travel there much?

Sounds like alot of fun -you're so lucky :biggrin:

Do Greenlanders eat polar bears too? Polar bear meat...not livers, that is...

With the berries and other seasonal foods, do the natives preserve/store these? Or must they eat it straight away?

It sounds like such a hard life -much respect to them!

And the seal intestine rich with digested bits...umm...I would not blame you one bit for chickening out -I would not eat it even right now...fresh too.. :wacko:

But if it was cooked, I'd imagine it wouldn't be TOO different from the sausages we eat (of course with a different flavour). After all, we use intestines and fill them with various odd bits too, don't we? That would make it a natural sausage ;)

Oh and do the Inuits/Greenlanders ever eat seal skin or just the other parts?

Go forth and fear oranges no more.    :laugh:

Nancy "protecting the citrus industry since 1954" Smith

:laugh:

I'm downright repulsed at the idea of eating certain other animals.  That's called cultural bias, and although I'm aware of it, it's hard to get past it.

I feel the exact same way. It's just brain messing up with myself but I can't control it...

And now I have a new and fun cocktail party conversation-starter about polar bear livers.  :biggrin:

Indeed! I shall be the next popular kid on the block :laugh:

Ditto on that one.  That said, I'd rather eat seal than water bug loin, to reference another topic floating around here somewhere.  In fact, the concept of eating seal doesn't bug me very much, other than the fact that I'm not sure I'd like the taste.  That eyeball description though....errrr, I'll pass on that one thanks.  :wacko:

What's water bug loin?

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Ditto on that one.  That said, I'd rather eat seal than water bug loin, to reference another topic floating around here somewhere.  In fact, the concept of eating seal doesn't bug me very much, other than the fact that I'm not sure I'd like the taste.  That eyeball description though....errrr, I'll pass on that one thanks.  :wacko:

What's water bug loin?

See this topic for the answer to your question. :raz:

Thanks for starting a great topic! I too am glad Morten spotted it and could give so much information.

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Morten: That was a really fascinating and informative read! Thanks so much for all the details! Is your exposure to such exotic foods due to you being from Denmark? Greenland is Danish governed, I believe. So do you travel there much?

Sounds like alot of fun -you're so lucky biggrin.gif

Do Greenlanders eat polar bears too? Polar bear meat...not livers, that is...

With the berries and other seasonal foods, do the natives preserve/store these? Or must they eat it straight away?

It sounds like such a hard life -much respect to them!

And the seal intestine rich with digested bits...umm...I would not blame you one bit for chickening out -I would not eat it even right now...fresh too.. wacko.gif

But if it was cooked, I'd imagine it wouldn't be TOO different from the sausages we eat (of course with a different flavour). After all, we use intestines and fill them with various odd bits too, don't we? That would make it a natural sausage ;)

Oh and do the Inuits/Greenlanders ever eat seal skin or just the other parts?

It was trip down memory lane thats for sure :laugh::laugh:

My parents moved up (me being all of 12 years old i had to move with hehe) there in 82. It was quite an adventure coming from small Denmark to the vastness of Greenland. I lived there for five years until i had to attend high school in Denmark but visited my parents twice a year. So you can say i grew up there. I havnt been there since my parents moved back in 89 or so. But i still know a lot of people up there and plan to go up there in a couple of years.

Now back to the food part :smile:

Polar bears is indeed eaten especially in northwest Greenland where there traditionally has been more of them. If you see a hunter with polar skin pants (wintertime) you can be sure he killed it himself.

I tried polar bear once. At school we where having a cooking class - and the teacher a elderly woman with the look of having teached a subject for to many none interested pupils threw down a bag of polar bear meat and said tired "This is polar bear, this is the photocopy of the recipe - go make it" and then found a chair and starting reading a newspaper.

Now i have as long as i can remeber been a history buff and having read about artic explores i know that polar bear meat could have trichinosis and that one telltale of this was if the meat felt like it contained sand when you cut it or chewed on it. I had allso read about what it had done to some exepeditions. I mean being caught far from civilisation, low on rations, exhausted and cold isnt the best time to catch this. Link from Wiki So i enquired naive about it and was told to get back to my station.

This was offcourse common knowlegde with several of my classmates and we whispered worried about it after encountering that sand feeling when cutting through the meat.

But we carried on, cooked the meat (one class took 45 minutes and we had two in a row. )

I cant remember the taste, but i remember vividly when i first got the felling of sand crunching in my mouth. I had to spit it out. Better safe than sorry :cool: My class mates did the same,some before me.

But we did get a yelling from the teacher for wasting food :rolleyes::rolleyes:

Regarding preservation when i lived up there fish where dried and smoked. I dont know if it was done traditionally. But else permafrost is as good as a freezer :smile:

Traditionally they lived off the land and sea. Game, seamamals and fish, with berries as a seasonally delicacy. And i know they build storerooms to preserve food.

Beside the environment was free of a lot of the bacteria we normally encounter. I remember my mom being able to unfreeze meat and then freeze it again if necessary without any problems.

Seal skin is not eaten, but was used for clothing and other things like ropes, whips and such. Nothing was wasted.

http://www.grydeskeen.dk - a danish foodblog :)
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Smithy: Np! Did you watch the video? :shock:

Morten: Oh wow, so you LIVED in Greenland? Wow such an interesting life you lead with all those quirky school/teacher stories and all (what kind of class was that?! It sure wasn't science...was it?.....) :laugh:

Btw, is Greenland by any chance quickly modernizing or would you say it's relatively still 'untouched'? I think I might consider going there -sounds really fascinating :)

Polar bears with a sandy texture? :wacko: Strange indeed...I'd imagine it would taste extremely 'gamey' and probably have a strong 'smell'.

Oh and I guess the cold, icy weather does have some of its advantages -you can certainly save a fair bit of money by living without a fridge :raz:

What is the common type of seasoning over there in Greenland? Is it just the typical salt and pepper? Is there a particular flavouring agent that is native to the place? And do the Greenlanders eat dessert? Perhaps they use berries to make a pie of sorts but I'm guessing they don't. I have a feeling the Greenlandic cuisine is mainly simple and hearty, rather than intricate and elaborate. It is, after all, hard to be the latter when you live in such climate.

I wonder...are there any restuarants anywhere in the world that specialises in Greenlandic cuisine? Perhaps in Denmark hmm...

P.S. Seal skin is probably chewy...

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Smithy: Np! Did you watch the video? :shock:

Yeah! I did watch it! Anthony Bourdain's pretty cool, isn't he?

It sounds as though Bourdain got more instruction on how to eat a seal eyeball than Patapsko Mike's friend did. PM's friend came up with a more vivid description, though.

Some questions come to mind:

1. Why was the kitchen in the video so modern looking? I take it that the seal-eating meal was a tradition, but not a normal way of life - kind of like the American Thanksgiving Feast? The stove and oven looked too functional to be ignored during everyday life.

2. Do the Inuit not have to worry about disease or parasite transmission? I really don't know anything about seal biology, except that they too are mammals.

That was a neat video.

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2.  Do the Inuit not have to worry about disease or parasite transmission?  I really don't know anything about seal biology, except that they too are mammals.

That was a neat video.

I wonder this exact same question. If anyone has any answers/conclusions to it, I would love to hear :shock:

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where's nakji when you need her? I'm pretty sure she's eaten seal before (I've seen her mention it before somewhere on here) seeing as how she is part inuit and all. However I don't know if she's had it cooked, raw, or both. You should ask her how it tastes.

I believe that I have had seal in some sort of Chinese medicine concoction, seeing as how there was a picture of it on the packaging along with a bear and a deer. My mother made me drink the crap when I was young and oh my god it tasted like ass.

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I believe that I have had seal in some sort of Chinese medicine concoction, seeing as how there was a picture of it on the packaging along with a bear and a deer.  My mother made me drink the crap when I was young and oh my god it tasted like ass.

Love your description :raz:

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where's nakji when you need her? I'm pretty sure she's eaten seal before (I've seen her mention it before somewhere on here) seeing as how she is part inuit and all. However I don't know if she's had it cooked, raw, or both. You should ask her how it tastes

Yo, sorry, just moved to Tokyo: I've been out eating ramen.

Yeah, the seal I had was cooked. It has kind of a rich, fatty taste - the meat's really dark. I can't say I liked it. Caribou, on the other hand, is delicious.

My favourite meal up north (in Labrador) was eating river trout I caught with my dad and great uncle. We went fishing, and pulled a ridiculous amount of them right out of the river. I remember the black flies were so bad, they were crawling in and out of our eyes and nose. But my uncle fried the fish up right next to the river, and they were soooooo sweet. I have never ever had fish that tasted like that since then.

As for parasites, don't seals have a lot of worms? Or am I just making that up in my head?

Every year when the seal hunt in Newfoundland comes around, and the CBC does its obligatory story on how appalled the rest of the world gets about it, my mother gets all high dudgeon-y and (picture her ironing in front of the TV) shakes her iron and shouts "Club 'em all! The little bastards eat all the cod!"

Those are my seal memories.

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