November 1, 1928
The true delicacies consist of liver, heart, kidney, fat, marrow, breast, and head of caribou. The marrow is eaten raw, all else halfcooked. Moreover, it is the only diet which is effective, day in and day out, during the course of a long, cold Winter when one is obliged to nourish oneself on meat exclusively.
The Land of Feast and Famine
And it was not long before, one evening, the sound of bells was heard through the forest. Six steaming dog-trains pulled up in front of the tepees, tall men clad in heavy caribou parkas hopped out of the sleds, pushed their hoods back from their heads, and looked smilingly around. These were the Caribou-Eaters.
We greeted each other and betook ourselves to Antoine's tent, which was soon packed. A pot of meat was brought forth and emptied in silence. Not until our pipes were lighted did the conversation begin. Tijon, the eldest of the Caribou-Eaters, and Antoine talked in hushed tones about all the different things that had happened during the year. Misfortune seemed to interest them most. When at last they were finished, Tijon turned to me. " Segue — oh, brother-in-law!" he began. "You Antoine's friend. You follow Indians to Thelon River. That is all right. I show way. First many sleeps without fire. Always cold wind, maybe empty stomach. If brother-in-law not afraid, white man and Indian make big journey. Many caribou and white fox die."
The first to arrive were busy, putting the camp in order. Amidst a confusion of dogs and sleds, men were rushing hither and yon in the firelight. Some were carrying huge logs and throwing them into the fire, already piled as high as a man's head. Others were dragging in spruce brush, which they then scattered over the camp-site and tramped down in a large semicircle about the flames. A thick covering of spruce twigs completed the floor of the camp. Back from the fire a way, the sleds were arranged end to end so as to form a circular barricade.
When we arrived, we unhitched our dogs, chained them up, and gave them beds of spruce branches to lie upon; then we pitched in and helped with the general work. In the course of an hour the camp was fully settled and it was time to be thinking of ourselves. We took our seats facing the fire, each with his back to his own sled, the eldest in the middle. Heavy pots were stuffed with snow and, by means of long poles, lifted into the flames. Tea and meat were produced. About the flames there appeared a whole row of spits on which caribou heads, knuckles, ribs, and kidneys were roasting. One leg of meat after another was buried in the snow with the flat side to the heat; this was the food for the dogs, which first had to be thawed out.
First we took out the large pot of meat, for in this we each had a share. The eldest helped themselves first. With their fingers they reached down into the pot and pawed around until they had located the choicest pieces of meat. Fat and marrow were usually their portion. Then came our turn, and we others did likewise and reached down into the pot. One learned very quickly to discard all semblance of modesty. The meat was cooked on one side only; the other side was raw, but it slid down one's gullet easily enough, for all that.
When the pot was empty, we each put to good use the titbit roasting on our respective spits. Here, too, only the meat nearest the bone is eaten, the coarser cuts, such as would be used as a " roast" by civilized people, being eliminated and thrown to the dogs. The true delicacies consist of liver, heart, kidney, fat, marrow, breast, and head of caribou. The marrow is eaten raw, all else halfcooked. The head, placed in the flames without removing the skin or even the hair, is the best part of the entire beast and provides a whole menu in itself. From it one has the brains, the fat behind the eyes, the nerves of the teeth, the tongue, and, most delicious of all, the nose and lips of caribou, with their own peculiar taste of chestnuts. In addition to this, the gourmands amongst the older Indians have their own special dishes, such as blood and the contents of the stomach boiled together into a kind of soup, the tissues of the larynx, et cetera.
Such was the Caribou-Eaters' diet, which was also to be mine during that and subsequent years. Moreover, it is the only diet which is effective, day in and day out, during the course of a long, cold Winter when one is obliged to nourish oneself on meat exclusively.
These people are past masters in the art of butchering a carcass and of preparing food. With firm sure hands they turn and twist the meat on a spit, until a delicate brown color appears. They use a heavy broad knife, and hack as frequently as they slice. They know where every muscle and every joint of the carcass lies, and seldom do they cut in the wrong place