Mix; Stir Up
The Alutiiq verb allukulu means to mix together or to stir up. This word is often used in conversations about cooking, and its root, –aku, appears in the word akutaq. Akutaq is a popular Native dish made from Alaska to northern Canada by mixing an assortment of wild ingredients into a base of fat. Depending on where you live, you might use caribou tallow, seal oil, or bear fat as your lard, and add to it a combination of dried or fresh fish, fish roe, meat, greens, and or berries. Every family has its own recipe. Akutaq should not be confused with ciitaq–another popular dish made with berries. Ciitaq means “something mashed.”
The word akutaq comes from the Yup’ik language. Although akutaq has become a desert dish, and now often includes sugar, it was traditionally food for travelers. People mixed foods in fat to prepare an easily transported, filling, nutritious meal. Akutaq was fuel for outdoor work in cold weather.
Today, akutaq is a favorite treat at potlucks and celebrations. People freeze ripe berries to make the dish throughout the year, and mix both wild and store bought ingredients together. Crisco, mashed potato flakes, and canned milk are popular additions. Some people even mix pilot bread into their akutaq! Before you eat, however, it is a Yup’ik tradition to take a pinch of the mixture and throw it in the fire, so that the ancestors can eat as well.
Photo: a pot of duck soup.