When I was asked to attend a tasting and preview of the upcoming fundraising event A Taste of the Arctic at the National Arts Centre, I was admittedly hesitant. While I was definitely eager to learn more about Canadian Inuit culture, my unadventurous stomach had reservations. The invitation informed me that the event’s cuisine would feature staple ingredients to Inuit cooking, such as arctic char, caribou, seal, and whale. I was nervous. Would I eat seal at this preview? Would I enjoy Inuit food in general?
The answer to both questions is yes. At the teaser for the fast-approaching March 10th event, a handful of reporters and myself, along with members of the Inuit Tapariit Kanatami (ITK), were treated by the NAC’s Executive Chef, John Morris, to elevated Inuit fare. The menu utilized traditional Inuit ingredients to create modern dishes that would be somewhat familiar to the average Ottawan. A few of these samplings included a light Arctic clam chowder, seal jambalaya which incorporated the meat in both sausage as well as pieces of seared seal, and the addictive crepes with Labrador tea Chantilly cream, salted caramel sauce, and chokeberry chutney.
Our Inuit food experience did not end there though. The second part of our dining last Tuesday afternoon was a country food feast, a solid tradition amongst Inuit communities. This is where I witnessed the bond enticed by the country food. A feast of country food is central to most gatherings and everyone contributes to the buffet-like spread, often distributed over cardboard on tables.
The traditions involved go beyond simply eating the country food. The hunting and preparation of the country food is as much part of the beloved feast as its eager consumption. Great consideration and gratitude is paid to the living beings sacrificed to be part of the feast, a component of eating absent in most other North American cultures.
A Taste of the Arctic attendees will also be entertained by Elisapie Isaac, a Canadian performer of Northern-inspired music, DJ Madeskimo delivering Inuit-influenced electronic and house beats, and local throat-singers.
Hosted by the ITK, Canada’s national Inuit organization, the event goes beyond offering Canadians the chance to encounter different facets of Inuit culture. President of the ITK, Terry Audla, aspires the evening will continue necessary conversations about serious obstacles to the Canadian Inuit population. Home to the third largest Inuit population in the country, these issues hit close to home in Ottawa.
Tickets to this unique and exciting night of Inuit culture can be purchased here and run at $199 each. For more information about the ITK, their work in the community, and how you can get involved, please visit their website.
A Taste of the Arctic is happening on March 10, 2015 from 6:00 – 10:00pm at the National Arts Centre, 53 Elgin St.