February 1, 1939
Father Henry's diet of frozen fish for the past six years is described
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"No white man has anything to boast of in the Arctic, but Father Henry no longer had the little with which he had started. Whatever he had possessed on first coming out here was to him part of a forgotten past, and he referred to it as "all those things." It had helped in the beginning, but now "all that" was superfluous. What, for examble, did he want with a plate when his only meal of the day was a lump of frozen fish, eaten on waking in the morning? What good was that lamp to hi, since he had no kerosene? How could he have used a pen here where ink froze? A napkin, which would have stiffened like a board in this cold? The only thing to do was to lick one's fingers, and indeed the gesture had become automatic with him. But since he knew that I was what Frenchy Chartrand at Coppermine had called a "cream puff," he gave me a ptarmigan skin to wipe my fingers on. This is theclassic towel of the Arctic. It lasts the whole winter through without washing, and if you really mean to honor your guest, it is with this ptarmigan skin that you wipe his plate.
Father Henry lacked every object known to the civilization of the white man. "Those things make no sense here,"-and with that phrase he dispose of the subject. When I unpacked my gifts f or him, rejoicing in advance over the delight they would give him, he stood by shaking his head. No, he can no longer eat wihte man's food: not even rice. He cannot digest the stuff. "That sort of food doesn't keep a man warm. Frozen fish, now ..." He loves frozen fish. There is nothing like it, he says, to warm you inside. Doctors tell you that you ought to vary your diet. Well...For six years he had been living on nothing but frozen fish, and he was none the worse off for it. When he awoke he groped on the ground, picked up a great chunk of fish frozen so hard that he had to thaw it out a little with his lips and breath before he could bite into it, and with this he ragaled himself. It was succelent, it warmed you up, it sated your hunger, and you felt fine. As for eating in the evening, no: it would have kept him awake all night."
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