During my first trip to visit my publisher in New York City, I was talking with one of the editors when, in passing, he said something about Alaska being somewhat exotic.
“Oh, I don’t know. Not really,” I said. “I mean we have our Wal-Marts and Targets and McDonalds.” We went on to talk about skiing and traveling. Then I mentioned we had just returned from our annual caribou hunting trip. We had traveled to what is called the “North Slope” near the Arctic Ocean and brought back several caribou.
“You hunted caribou?” he asked.
“Sure. It’s our meat for the year,” I said.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s kind of exotic.”
And I knew he was right. In most parts of America, people don’t go caribou hunting for their family vacation.
But here among other Alaskans, we are not exotic. We are actually kind of run-of-the-mill. We have neighbors who eat exclusively from the garden and the wild. They store their cabbages, beets, potatoes and other vegetables in a large root cellar. Salmon, moose, wild berries. That’s pretty much it. They also built their small log cabin with lumber they milled themselves off their land.
Up and down the road, you can also find big-screen TVs, hot tubs, and hybrid cars. And most of us straddle a kind of middle ground. Many of us raise gardens and farm animals, harvest wild berries, and fill our freezer with salmon. Alaskans who don’t hunt will rarely turn down a moose roast if one is offered, and like in Lake Wobegon, people are apt to find zucchinis at their doorstep when harvest comes.
We live too far out to have it delivered, but some Fridays as a treat we bring pizza home from town. We top it with caribou pepperoni and watch a movie from Netflix. Other nights, dinner might be moose steak, potatoes from our friend’s field, a salad from our garden, and homegrown rhubarb in a pie for dessert.
True, my husband runs a 50-mile trapline each winter in glacier country. And it’s also true that I once shot a black bear off our front porch and turned it into hot dogs. Our place is like many modern Alaskan “homesteads” – a nearly finished house, a stack of firewood to be split, a garden that gets munched by moose occasionally, and an incredible view of the mountains. But my kids also love macaroni and cheese and SpongeBob Squarepants DVDs. And I have a weakness for good espresso and the gourmet chocolates made at a local shop.
It’s a similar line I straddle when writing this blog. I hope to share some of what makes our home unique. But the journalist in me also wants to paint an accurate picture.
And I promise to tell you about the black bear on the porch.