Day three consists of ice fishing. We are going out to the fjord to fish. Hopefully we will catch something. I have already set my hopes on a halibut, catfish or Greenland shark. Mostly the latter, because it would be the best story. Unfortunately, I can already tell you that it was not a shark that met my hook.
We are picked up by Chris, who is from Jutland, and who has lived in Greenland for a number of years. Chris has a shop on the other side of the runway and every now and then he arranges tours for tourists.
Chris drives us out to the harbour, where a good walk out on the ice with all of our gear awaits us.
When we finally make it, we breathlessly greet Thomas Quist and his two children: Oliver, 8, and Lærke, 11. Thomas is a big man who, in his day job, is a police officer and pilot. He has brought a motorized drill with him. Oliver and Lærke are already fishing with their lines. “Yes, when the kids heard that I was going out fishing, they pestered me about getting out of school,” Thomas explains. At the same time, we hear a shout from Oliver; he has already got a bite before we have even caught our breath. He pulls a small fjord cod up from his hole in the ice and proudly shows it off.
This bodes well for today’s catch.
Before we left in Denmark, Anders told me a story he had heard from his neighbour, who hails from Greenland. Back in the ‘70s, a successful Japanese engineer came to Greenland and was fascinated by the culture and lifestyle of hunters in North Greenland. In fact, so much so that he uprooted his life and moved to Greenland, with the goal of becoming the best hunter of all. This is perhaps a challenging goal to set yourself when you are just starting to learn about nature and traditional hunting methods as an adult. Against all odds, he succeeded.
It is stories like this one that could be fun to include in the book.
Anders is already talking to Thomas, who is telling him about a special dish called kiviaq: fermented little auks. Little auks are small auks the size of a large budgie. You ferment them by catching approx. 100 of them, putting them all into a sealskin with the blubber still on it, and sewing it together. It is very important to keep the blubber on, as this helps to create the right fermentation process. The skin with the birds in is placed under a pile of stones for a minimum of 3 months, and sometimes for a whole year. The birds are then eaten in their entirety, although the feathers are spit out.
I have great respect for other countries’ food cultures and have eaten many strange things, ranging from insects to turtles, but just hearing about this dish actually made me feel a bit sick.
As I stand and gag a bit, Anders and Thomas continue with the conversation. Anders tells him about the Japanese man and Thomas suddenly gets excited and says: “I come from Qaanaaq, or Thule. My childhood friend is half Japanese, so I know the story well. His father is called Ikuo Oshima and is actually a very capable hunter, and he wants to share his knowledge. He makes everything himself and is so well known for it that he gets orders for dog whips and seal fishing lines from all over the world.”
Before long, it is my line that’s being jerked. The jerks are small, so it’s probably not shark, halibut or catfish – if it is one of these, then it’s a small one. Out of the hole comes a small fjord cod. We will try to cook something out of this.
I decide to make ceviche out of the little cod fish.
Afterwards we had a fun photo session that ended with the food being frozen on the plate. After a while we froze quite a bit ourselves, and began to look forward to a hot shower. As we were heading back to town, Sine from Albatros rang and invited us to dinner at their restaurant – Roklubben. “YES, PLEASE”, was enthusiastically shouted throughout the car. It was just what we fancied. Good food, wine and warmth.
Roklubben. Photo by Filip Gielda – Visit Greenland
After parting with Chris, there was only just time to wash our hands and put the photo equipment in the rooms before we were picked up and driven to the restaurant.
Roklubben is located on the shores of Lake Ferguson, approx. five kilometres from the hotel. Unfortunately, it was just about to get dark when we arrived, so the supposedly good view was not visible. There were virtually no guests other than us – except for a couple who were on their way out the door. After a hearty reception – both by Sine and the well-clad waiter, our small, frozen party was skilfully served with abundant wine and very good food. Here was served everything from halibut to reindeer and muskox tartare. It must be noted that musk oxen have quickly become part of the local food culture in the relatively short time that these large animals have been available.
When dinner was finished, our waiter came with various homemade snaps which he thought we should taste. One of them, in particular, divided our opinions. It was the snaps which was made out of the gizzards of grouses. The little birds are filled with wild thyme and other herbs, so there is a lot of flavour in the gizzard. Not even this story could get Anders to taste it. I, who, along with Kennie, have tasted far worse snaps (including snaps with whole snakes and lizards in the bottle itself), did not have a problem with throwing the aromatic fluid down my throat. The taste was quite good.
With a bit of a sore head after the evening’s debauchery, breakfast and, of course, coffee were consumed in almost complete silence. It was just fine sitting there, watching the work of the planes landing and leaving again, while slowly regaining the ability to be human.
The trip home to Copenhagen is spent reflecting on how much local food means in Greenland. I can say without doubt that Greenland is the place I have been where the food culture is most authentic. Very charming. But it does not seem like this comes from an unwillingness to try something new, but rather, from the belief that what is available is simply what tastes best and is the cheapest.
It has been very exciting to explore the food culture in Kangerlussuaq and I am now convinced that I will have to come back to find out what people eat on the coast.
SEE YOU SOON, GREENLAND!