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> May 21, 2006 - Hannah’s Question, A whole journal just for Hannah…and others!
Samantha_Dassler_Barlow
post May 22 2006, 07:33 PM
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Date: Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hello Everyone,

I would like to start this journal with a post that I found on my message board a couple of days ago from a great little gal named Hannah, or Hannah Banana as she lets me lovingly call her:

"YOU ATE WHAT?" How could you eat walrus, MRS. BARLOW? That picture of Walrus Skin was gross! And you ate that? We finished our ERB's yesterday. Hope your trip is well. Please start eating normal food from now on! - Hannah

Hi, Hannah Banana! You might not know this yet, but you are going to help me teach others today about a culture that is in many ways very different from ours in eastern North Carolina. I can tell that you have been reading my journal and that means so much to me especially since I am so far from home.

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Tasty snack!

Obviously you are referring to the posting on my experience of eating a little piece of walrus hide in the question you posted. I thought that a few of my readers might be a little shocked, especially the ones that live in our part of the country. Walrus is not an animal that is a regular or normal part of the meats that are locally available. It is common for people in our part of the country (North Carolina) to eat lots of beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and some seafood like fish, oysters, shrimp, and scallops. These are all animals that are commercially farmed or fished and readily available in grocery stores and restaurants in our region of the country. Most people where Hannah and I live do not have to hunt for their food. Those people that do hunt tend to do it more for sport or recreation and for variety so that they do not waste the meat of the animals they kill. For some, it might even be a family tradition. Deer and turkey are two animals that are commonly hunted in our area. Could someone please share on the question board: what are some other animals that are commonly hunted in eastern North Carolina?

Try thinking of this scenario:
What if you lived in a different region of our country and the meat of those animals I just mentioned were not available? What if there were no grocery store for you to go and buy steak or boneless, skinless chicken breasts and you had to hunt for your food in a place that is often extremely cold and surrounded by the ocean? What would you do for food? You probably forage, grow, or hunt or fish for it. Well, what if the land and climate supported little vegetation that had enough nutritional value to help you survive the cold? Then you would probably rely more on hunting and fishing.

If you had to depend on hunting for your survival, then you would probably hunt the animals that were available to you in your area. For example, you wouldn’t hunt deer if they were not known to live in that area. Well, for many villages on the coast of the Bering Sea, hunting marine mammals is their way of life and has been for thousands of years. It is a very big part of their culture. When people hunt for food to sustain their families, it is called subsisting. Think about the animals that are high in nutritional value, readily available, and economical for the people that live near this cold sea to hunt… That would be large marine mammals like seal, walrus, and whale or land animals like caribou and polar bear. The local cultures also eat clams, crabs, and some fish, but there is much more meat from these larger marine mammals that can feed their families for longer periods of time. Plus, they use the animal hides, as well as other parts of the animal, for other useful things. Remember, this sea is a different habitat from the ocean near where we live. There are many different types of fish supported by the relatively warm ocean where we live, but the coldness of the Bering Sea does not provide a good habitat for a lot of fish. So, although there are a few fish here, they are not considered to be a major food source for villages that are often locked in by ice – ice that walrus, seals, and polar bears live on. This is a big habitat difference compared to the habitat for coastal animals in North Carolina.

Let’s make a comparison. One of the cash crops in our region of the country is peanut. So, it is rational to think that peanut butter is a rather normal, sometimes even staple, part of the diet of many people in our part of the country and there are many products in our stores that are made with peanuts (sorry, Anne Francis, Scott, Dylan, and Austin). But, did you know that peanut butter is not a normal food in some countries. My friend Mikhail is from Russia and he dislikes peanut butter. It is not a normal part of the diet for people where he is from and he says that it is not appetizing to him and he hasn’t acquired a taste for that particular food. Apply this peanut butter example to the walrus issue. Since walruses are not a staple food to us, Hannah, does it make sense that we might have a little emotional difficulty making ourselves try it and that we might not acquire a taste for it if we didn’t have to?

My friend Mikhail has managed to survive just fine without having to eat peanut butter if he doesn’t want to. It is not a necessity for us to eat a lot of peanut butter even though peanuts are grown locally because there are many other food choices that are driven to our stores from all over the country and we don’t have to hunt it or grow it. What if peanuts were one of only a few food choices available in our area? A person probably could avoid having to eat it, but it might get difficult at times if it were a food with a very large economic and cultural significance.

Even though the piece of walrus skin may not have looked very appetizing to some people from my part of the country, there are other people in our same country, just a different region, that love walrus meat and depend on it for survival. Just because it is different for us, doesn’t mean that it is bad. It was definitely a new experience for me and I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to learn so much about another culture through one bite of food.

Hannah, I am very glad that you were brave enough to speak up and express to me that it didn’t seem appetizing and also didn’t seem normal for people in our part of the country to eat walrus. It was a great question and I am glad that I was able to have you assist me in answering it. Maybe some people were just trying to be polite even though they may have thought the same thing or maybe some of my readers already knew that some cultures depend on walrus meat as a staple in their diet. But, I especially want to thank you for helping me to teach others about another culture and to help people to learn to respect the differences between our culture and others.

As the old saying goes, “When in Rome… “
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