“Today’s appetizer is one of their specialties“. They serve you a small plate with a dozen of half black and half white small cubes, the size of packed sauteed vegetables you find at the supermarket in the frozen food section. “It is whale’s skin. They really do love it!“. Exactly: they do. I saw Peter, one of the skippers, eating three little plates of it tasting one little cube at the time, after skewering it with the fork and admiring it. We barely eat one litlle plate of it, instead, combining two strategies:
- 1 slice of bread (with extra-virgin olive oil… why not?) for each trinity of little cubes;
- out of sight, out of mind, so the sooner you finish it the better it is.
Maybe it is because of its gummy texture or the strong fishy smell. Or maybe the combination of them. The truth is I didn’t meet anybody among travellers and guides who didn’t see that food as a challenge.
This could be the starting point of a food Odyssey, but actually it was the only difficulty faced at the eating table. The meat of polar bear, seal or ox have peculiar flavours, but they fit in the macro-category of “meat” like deer, boar, goat etc. at which we are used to. The whale’s meat is also meat and it has the texture of it, but it is characterized by a fishy smell that makes it more unique. The fish, instead, is fish, just more tasty, so that the salmon isn’t a usual one, but it is the one and only “salmon salmon“. Finally, the meal preparation at the Red House shows the italian origin of Robert so it is like playing at home. The difficulties are for:
- vegetarians and vegans who can take advantage at 100% only of the breakfast resources, because for dinner meat and fish are granted;
- puritans of traditional recipes who could turn up their nose in front of a plate of whale with tuna sauce as variation of veal with tuna sauce;
- some Germans sure about the fact you can’t serve polenta with fish and not resigning themselves even when faced with the evidence of italian tradition. The card “traditional or not, the truth is it tastes good” is a joker that doesn’t seem worth to be wasted.
Those who had doubts about the product freshness should just wait for an hunter or fisherman visit. They knock at Robert’s door to offer the fruits of their labor.
The wide choice of breakfast and the set-menu dinner and large portions make pointless to have lunch, except if you decide to go for a long walk and so it’s better to take refreshment to avoid passing out on the floor. In this case you can count on the fabulous world of supermarkets: beverages of bright colors, uselss labels, only-for-family packaging; at the bakery section, mini pizzas never seen before and hot dogs with a sweetish aftertaste; fruit bars with banana and cocoa, banana and date, figs and date combinations. You can surely find something to recharge yourself during the day, at least making do with products of planetary fame if you don’t want to risk a disappointment buying more exotic ones.
The two supermarkets of Tasiilaq are worth a visit: there are no aisles, just a mini-labyrinth of shelves filled up till the provisions brought by boat from Denmark do not run out. It can happen then that the day news is the end of yogurt’s reserves. How it works during winter is hard to imagine, given that the supplies by boat stop when the Tasiilaq fjord become inaccessible because of the ice. In practice from november till june.
Polar bear, seal and whale hunting
Hunting is the traditional mean of livelihood in Greenland: there are nor farms or ranches; the only animal that is bred is the sled dog. The hunted animals are obviously those widespread in the area: whales and orcas, polar bears and seals.
The philosophy of natural resources conservation has arrived also in Greenland, where the government, by itself or by the internatonal institutions it joined, tries to find the meeting point between subsistence needs and those of conservation. For now the situation is clearly outlined and regulated with respect to polar bear and seal hunting. Whereas the orcas hunting has no regulation at all in consideration of the small number of animals taken. In closing whale hunting: at the moment the hunting-quotas are determined by the Greenlandic Government pending the agreement in the framwork of the International Whaling Commission for 2018.
How many visitors/ travellers can be add to the equation without changing the balance is a question to which I haven’t found any answer anywhere. For now.
- Lucia’s report (only in french or english)
- Polar bear management in Greenland (september 2015)
- Whaling in Greenland
- White paper on management and utilization of large whales in Greenland (may 2012)
- White paper on management and utilization of seals in Greenland (jenuary 2009)
- Updated data to: Management and utilization of seals in Greenland (february 2015)
- Scientific Committee’s Report of the International Whaling Commission (2017)