Friday, August 26, 2011

From hunting to skinning to eating

Well, I promised to finish my caribou hunting tale and I figure, better late than never. With the caribou strapped to the back of David's ATV, it's tongue sticking out of it's mouth and it's legs shooting straight out the back, we made our journey to Elders' Cabin. The cabin, which sits outside of town on, what I call the road to nowhere, but the locals call the road to Elders' Cabin, was the home of dozens of youth that weekend. They were taking part in a suicide prevention camp that was meant to teach basic counselling skills, self-esteem and leadership. The bumpy trip back was a lot quicker than the trip out to the middle of nowhere where we shot our tuktu. It was like, now that we had our kill, we were on a mission to eat it. When we arrived at the cabin, David lifted the caribou off the back of the Honda and onto the rocky ground. It was there that he taught the youth how to skin the animal. Speaking in Inuktitut, he showed them that you first make cuts down the legs of the tuktu. Then you make a long incision down the belly of the animal. David then took hold of the skin and pulled it back. From there, he used his fist to push the skin away from the meat. As he plunged his hand, wrist and arm between the layers, it sounded like the peeling of an orange, but amplified to a much higher decibel. After separating the first side of skin from the meat, he turned the animal over and asked for a volunteer to give it a try. Two young guys, in their teens or early 20s, rolled up their sleeves and got in there. Once the skin was completely disconnected from the body, David made a few precise cuts around the animals face and with one fell swoop, one of the youth pulled the skin out from under the animal. But that's not where the lesson stops. David went on to show the crowd how to properly butcher the tuktu. He showed them what parts to keep and what to discard. By the end, there was just a pile of body parts lying around on the pebbles. The edible parts and the not-so-edible parts were thrown in different areas. The head was here, a leg there, stomach here, intestines there. Although I'm not one for blood and guts, I didn't find anything gross about what I witnessed that day. It was actually quite brilliant. Aside from when I fish, I never see where my dinner comes from, so be there from start to finish was quite something. After David had completed his task, the useful parts of the caribou were lifted onto a tarp and the inedible parts were disposed of. I can still picture David with intestines hanging from his hands and blood up to his elbows. In keeping with the experience, as the meat was being further prepared by elders, I tried raw bone marrow. Without even thinking, I popped it in my mouth and was surprised when it melted and tasted like butter. The next thing I tried was raw kidney. I was handed a piece by a guy who was holding the entire kidney in his hand. He was slicing off pieces and popping them in his mouth. His hand was covered in blood, as were his teeth and lips. That was probably the least appealing part of eating the kidney. It wasn't something I would want everyday or even order on a menu, but it was definitely edible. From there, I went to tongue. The tongue, to many, is the most delicious part of a caribou. It's not eaten raw, though. It's first boiled. I was expecting it to be extremely tough, but it was actually easy to chew and relatively tasty. I would say, by far, my favourite was the marrow. I mean, who doesn't love the taste of butter?
I actually didn't realize until later that night when I had gone home that I didn't eat any of the actual meat. I guess that just means I'll have to go on another hunt, or I'll at least have to make friends with someone who can make me a caribou dinner.

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