Talkin' Tuesday: How to Speak Like an Alaskan

Akutaq                                 [a-goo-duck]

noun:  a common food in western Alaska, usually made with ingredients such as Crisco or animal oil, berries, sugar, and fish.  Yupik word for “something mixed.”  Also known as Eskimo ice cream.

Example: “That Akutaq was so tasty, I’m still grinnin’ like a possum eatin’ a sweet tater.”

I first tasted akutaq in Kotzebue, north of the Arctic Circle.  I was at a public event, and a young girl approached me with an old shoebox full of small paper cups, each packed to the brim.  “Would you like some Eskimo ice cream?” she asked.  Famished, I said, “Yes, please,” and took the fullest cup.  This Southern woman never turns down ice cream.

It was then explained to me that the variation of ice cream I was so eager to spoon into my mouth was actually a combination seal oil, salmon, Crisco, loose snow, salmonberries, blueberries, and sugar.  Since trying akutaq with an open mind was the respectful thing to do, I did my usual countdown… 3-2-1… and BOOM!  Flavor explosion!  Rich, gooey, bitter, tart, saccharine, indescribable texture, and unexpectedly pleasing to the palate.  

Try it.  You just might like it.

My first cup of akutaq in Kotzebue, north of the Arctic Circle.

The tentatively first taste.

A box full o' akutaq at the 2012 Alaska Federation of Natives in Anchorage, Alaska.