Manataka American Indian Council
COOKIN' WITH THREE SISTERS
(VERY) TRADITIONAL FISH RECIPES
|Boiled Salmon Guts||Boiled Sea Slugs|
|Fresh Halibut Heads & Backbone||Roasted Salmon|
|Tasty Whale Steaks|
|BEAN RECIPES||CORN RECIPES|
|MAPLE SYRUP RECIPES||SQUASH RECIPES|
|FRY BREAD RECIPES||WILD RICE RECIPES|
The following are old Kwakuitl fish stories and recipes narrated in the Kwakuitl language by Elie Hunt and translated into English by her husband, George Hunt, between 1908 to 1914. The Kwakuitl Nation is located in British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, Canada.
Sometimes the woman boils the heads (of halibut) and invites the friends of her husband.
When the men are invited, his wife takes the halibut heads and puts them on a log on the floor. Then she takes an ax and chops them in pieces. The pieces are not very small. Then she puts them into a kettle. Then she takes the backbone and breaks it to pieces. Then she also puts it into the kettle.
As soon as the kettle is full, she takes a bucket of water and empties it into it. The water hardly shows among them when she puts it on the fire. She does not touch it; but when it has been boiling a long time, she takes it off.
Then she takes here large ladle and also dishes, and she dips it out into the dishes with her large ladle. As soon as all the dishes are full, she takes her spoons and gives one to each guest, an she spreads a food-mat in front of them. As last she takes up the dish and puts it down in front of her guests.
Immediately they all eat with spoons; and after they have eaten with spoons, the wife of the host takes other small dishes and puts them down between the men and the food-dish. This is called "receptacle for the bones." As soon as the guests find a bone, they throw it into the small dish; and they keep on doing this while they are eating. After they have finished eating with spoons, they put their spoons into the dish from which they have been eating.
Then they take the small dish in which the bones are, and put it down where the large dish had been, and they pickup the bones with their hands and put them into their mouths and chew them. Therefore this is called "chewed;" namely, boiled halibut-head.
They chew it for a long time and suck at it; and after they finish sucking out the fat, they blow out the sucked bones; and they do not stop until all the bones have been sucked out.
They the woman takes the small dishes and washes them out, and she pours some water into them down again before the guests. Then they wash their hands. As soon as they have done so, they drink; and after they have finished drinking, they go out. Then they finish eating the halibut-heads.
Halibut-heads are not food for the morning, for they are too fat. They only eat them at noon and in the evening, because they are very fat; that is the reason why they are afraid to eat them, that it makes one sleepy.
Tasty Whale Steaks
Most importantly, you cannot eat it all by yourself! So the first step is to call for a party and invite all your friends, relatives, and local dignitaries.
A special occasion, like the finding of a whale, calls for the use of ceremonial names. Though a hunter, a man, has found the whale, preparing food is women's work, and therefore the daughter of the hunter has the rights to prepare the whale. She is given the ceremonial name, Place-of-cutting Blubber. Note that it is the daughter who has the rights, not the wife(s), due to the family rights in a matrilineal society.
Once everybody is ready, you bring tools, and the hunter who found the whale leads everybody in their canoes to the spot where he found it. The father of the hunter has the honor of speaking for the daughter of the hunter to "make a toast" for the occasion. It is customary to first declare how wonderful the whale is, being full of delicious blubber, etc.. Then you should give the choicest piece (the dorsal fin) to the ranking dignitary, who is typically the chief of the village.
Everybody else gets an equal size piece of the whale according to the order of their rank. The first piece starts at the whale neck, and they work from the top down and from the head to the tail. Generally the pieces are cut about a fathom (6 feet) in width. After the ceremonial pieces are given out, the women go to work to gather the remaining fat from the whale. The last step is cut off a piece of the tale of the whale.
When this is done, the pieces are loaded in the canoes, and everybody goes home to do the remainder of the preparation. The hunks of blubber are split into strips four fingers thick (two inches). These pieces are then cut into half inch strips.
A kettle of water is set to boil on the beach, and the strips are boiled to render the oil. The oil is ladled off and stored in watertight storage boxes. Whale oil is best stored in the corner of your house.
Then, you take cedar bark, and split it into long strips. Poke holes in the middle of the boiled pieces of whale blubber, and thread them onto the long strips of bark. When finish these strings of blubber are now called "tied-in-the-middle".
Dry these strips in the smoky rafters of your house for at least a month. When you want to eat some "tied-in-the-middle" take it down from the rafters, and boil it in a kettle until tender. This takes a lot of boiling. Be sure to eat it hot, because when it is cold, it is really tough. If you boil more than you can eat, you can dry it again, and reheat it later. This dish is called "eating boiled blubber tied in the middle", a real treat!
After the woman has cut open the silver-salmon caught by her husband by trolling, she squeezes out the food that is in the stomach, and the slime that is on the gills. She turns the stomach inside out; and when she has cleaned many, she takes a kettle and pours water into it.
When the kettle is half full of water, she puts the stomach of the silver-salmon into it. After they are all in she puts the kettle on the fire; and when it is on the fire, she takes her tongs and stirs them. When (the contents) begin to boil, she stops stirring. The reason for stirring is to make the stomachs hard before the water gets too hot; for if they do not stir them, they remain soft and tough, and are not hard. Then the woman always takes up one of (the stomachs) with the tongs; and when she can hold it in the tongs, it is done; but when it is slippery, it is not done.
(When it is done,) she takes off the fire what she is cooking. It is said that if, in cooking it, it stays on the fire too long, it gets slippery. Then she will pour it away outside of the house, for it is not good if it is that way.
If it should be eaten when it is boiled too long, (those who eat it) could keep it only a short time. They would vomit. Therefore they watch it carefully. When it is done, the woman takes her dishes and her spoons, and she puts them down at the place where she is seated; but her husband invites whomever he wants to invite.
When the guests come in, his wife takes a large ladle and dips the liquid out of the kettle into the dishes. When they are half full of the liquid of what she has been cooking, she takes the tongs and takes out the boiled stomachs and puts them into the dishes. When all the dishes are full, she takes food-mats and spreads them in front of the guests. Finally she takes the dishes and places them in front of the guests. There is one dish for every four guests. Then she gives a spoon to each guest.
Water is never given with this, and they never pour oil on it, for oil does not agree with the boiled stomach; and therefore also they do not drink water before they eat it, for it makes those who eat it thirsty. Then they eat with spoons; and after they have eaten, the host takes the dishes and puts them down at the place where his wife sits.
Then he takes water and gives it to them. Then they rinse their mouths on account of the salty taste, for the boiled stomach is really salt. After rinsing the mouth, they drink some water; and after drinking, they go out of the house.
This finishes what I have to say about the cooking of various kinds of salmon. They never sing when eating steamed salmon-heads or boiled salmon-heads, or when they eat boiled stomachs, for these are eaten quickly when they first go trolling silver-salmon.
The stomach of the dog-salmon is not eaten when it is first caught at the mouth of the river, nor when it is caught on the upper part of the rivers; but they boil the heads when it is caught in the upper part of the river, also those of the humpback-salmon. At last it is finished.
When a man wants to take sea-slugs, he first goes for a thin shaft which is used by the salmon fishers. He takes two thin cedar sticks, each one a short span long and a little thinner than the little finger, flat on one side and he takes cedar-bark and splits it in narrow strips. The two cedar-sticks are to be hooks at the end of the sea-slug spear. He puts these near the end of the harpoon-shaft, and ties them on with split long strips of cedar-bark.
Then he waits for it to be calm at low tide. When it is calm, he launches his sea-slug-gathering canoe. He takes his sea-slug-gathering paddle, and his knife for cutting off the heads of sea slugs, and also the stick for catching sea-slugs. Then he paddles to a place where he knows there are many sea-slugs. He looks down into the water; and when he sees a place where there are many of them together, he takes his stick for catching sea-slugs and pushes it down into the water. He pushes the hook-end under the sea-slugs. Then it comes up lying crosswise over his canoe.
He takes the sea-slug, takes his knife, and cuts off the neck. Then he squeezes out the insides, and he throws it down hard into his canoe, saying as he is throwing it down, "Now you will be as stiff as the wedge of your grandfather". He does this to each of them, and says so as he throws the sea-slugs into his canoe. When he has caught many of them, he goes home.
As soon as he arrives on the beach of his house, his wife takes a basket and goes to meet him and carry up what he has. She puts her basket into the small canoe; and the woman takes one of the sea-slugs, squeezes down the whole length of its body, holding it by the hind part, the head downward; and when what is left of the insides has come out, he throws it into the basket. He does this to all of them.
When they are all in, she carries her basket of sea-slugs up the beach and takes it into the house. Then she takes a large low steaming box and pours some fresh water into it. When it is half full, she takes the basket of sea-slugs and pours them into the water in the box. She leaves them there for two nights with the water over them. They are ready to be boiled.
The man takes the kettle for boiling sea-slugs and pours water into it until it is half full. He puts it over the fire; and when the kettle for boiling sea-slugs is on the fire with the sea-slugs in it, he goes into the woods and breaks off hemlock-branches. He carries these back and puts them down where the sea-slugs are boiling in the kettle. After he has done so, he takes the low steaming-box in which the sea-slugs are, and places it by the side of the fire, and also the tongs. When the water begins to boil, his wife takes one of the sea-slugs and squeezes the body so that the liquid comes out from the inside.
Then she puts it in the boiling water. Her husband stirs it with the tongs. The woman squeezes out the whole number of sea-slugs; and when they are all in the kettle, the man continues to stir them. When the water begins to boil, the man picks up handfuls of dirt from the floor of the house and throws it into the boiling water. Then it stops boiling over, for the water of the sea-slugs almost always boils over, and only the dirt from the floor of the house stops the boiling-over.
The man tries to take hold of one of them with the tongs; and when he succeeds in taking one, it is done. The skin gets rough when it is done. The (sea-slugs) are slippery when they are raw, and he can not get hold of them with his tongs. When they are done, he takes off the fire the kettle for cooking sea-slugs. He takes a large dish and puts it by the side of the kettle. He pours some water into it; and when it is more than half full of water, he takes the tongs, lifts up the sea-slugs, and puts them into the dish for washing the boiled slugs. As soon as they are all in, the man sits down by its side and washes them, they being stiff.
After he has washed one of them, he gives it to one of his guests to eat first a sea-slug; and the one to whom the first sea-slug is given eats it at once. The man washes the sea-slugs quickly, and gives one to the second man; and he continues doing this with his other guests; and when the first one finishes eating a sea-slug. he is given another one.
After they have eaten enough, they take some to their wives, for sea-slugs are only eaten in the winter, when they are good. They are bad in the summer. That is about one way of cooking sea-slugs.
[This recipe is one meant to be used to eat salmon fresh.]
This is especially interesting because it sheds light on the truth that food preparation is more of a cultural matter than a physical process. In other words, a persons role in their society is reflected in how they serve food to their guests.
Catching the Salmon
"This is when the man goes catching salmon at night. That is what is called by the river people "taking salmon with hooks at night up the river," when they are going to dry the roasted dog-salmon for winter.
"Dog-salmon are speared by the river people at the mouth of the river when they are going to eat them at once, while the dog-salmon are still phosphorescent. Then they will not keep a long time without getting moldy when they are roasted, for they are fat.
"Now I shall talk about the salmon speared at the mouth of the river when it is still phosphorescent. When the man who spears the salmon gets one, he goes home as soon as he has speared it.
"His wife at once takes an old mat and spreads it over her back; then she takes her belt and puts it on over the old mat on her back; then she takes along a large basket in which to carry the dot-salmon on her back. She goes to the canoe of her husband and puts four dog-salmon into her "Carrying Basket. Then she goes up the beach to the place where she is going to cut them. She puts them on an old mat, which is spread on the ground outside the house.
"As soon as she has thrown them on the ground, she takes her fish-knife and sharpens it; and after she has sharpened it, she cuts off the gills of the dog-salmon. When the gills are off, she cuts around the neck, but she does not cut off the head from the backbone. Then she cuts from the back of the neck down to four finger-widths from the tail on the upper side. Now a thin strip of flesh is left on the backbone. As soon as the cut reaches down to the belly, she turns it around, and she begins to cut from the tail upwards to the back of the neck.
"As soon as she takes off the backbone, she takes her roasting-tongs and takes the slime and rubs it over the roasting-tongs, so that they may not get burned when they stand by the fire of the house. Then she winds cedar-bark around the tongs one span from the bottom of the roasting-tongs; and when this is done, she takes one of the cut salmon and puts it crosswise into the roasting-tongs. Then she takes cedar-bark and ties it tight above the cut salmon; and after she has tied it, she takes another salmon and puts it the other way, above the one that she put in first. Then she again takes cedar-bark and ties it above the salmon.
"After she finishes tying it, she splits cedar-wood, long and slender pieces. These are called "the lock". Then she pushes one of these on each side, two finger-widths from the edge of the salmon-meat, through between the legs of the roasting-tongs, lengthwise of the salmon; and after she has finished this, she pushes long ones across the salmon and the "locks"; which she first put on. Now there is one on each side of the roasting-tongs in this manner: Then the same is done on the other side.
"After this is finished, the woman puts (the tongs) up by the side of the fire. She first turns the meat side towards the fire; an when it is done, she turns it around to the skin side.
"As soon as that is done, the man requests permission from his wife to invite his friends to come and eat the roasted salmon while it is warm. As soon as his wife tells him to go ahead and call them, the man goes and invites them.
"Then his wife takes a mat, which is to be the food-mat of the guests of her husband; then she spreads a mat for the guests of her husband to sit on; and it does not take long before her husband comes back followed by his guests, for they try to come before the roasted salmon cools off.
"Immediately they sit down on the mat that has been spread out; and when they are all in, the woman takes the food-mat and spreads it in front of her husband's guests. Then she goes back and takes the two roasted salmon in the tongs; and she takes them out, one for each two men . Then she lays them skin down, on the food-mat. When there are four men, there are two food-mats, and there is one roasted salmon.
"There is not oil for dipping, for the dog-salmon is very fat while it is still phosphorescent, when it is jumping in the mouth of the rivers. Then the guests themselves break it and eat the salmon speared at the mouth of the river.
"Early in the morning, dog-salmon speared at the mouth of the river is not eaten, for it is fat it is only eaten in the afternoon and evening. Whenever it is eaten in the morning, it makes those who eat it feel sleepy the whole day long, for it is very fat. Therefore they are afraid to eat it in the morning.
"As soon as the guests finish eating it, the man takes what is left and eats with it with his wife, while his guests drink water freshly drawn. After they finish drinking, the guests go out. They only wash their hands in their houses; and after the man has finished eating with his wife, he gathers the bones and skin left by his, puts them on a mat, and throws them into the sea on the beach. This is all about salmon speared at the mouth of the river.
Various sections of this transcript were narrated in the Kwakuitl Language between 1908 and 1914 by Elie Hunt to her husband George Hunt.
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