Pioneer Potluck: About wastefulness, a big word with a lot of meaning

  • By Grannie Annie
  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014 4:38pm
  • LifeFood

Kenai and North Kenai, Alaska, now known as Nikiski.

1967 to 2014

I am sure you have read enough about Kenai River Dip Netting and wastefulness – so have I. Is it a surprise that we went through another year of the deluge of people from all over Alaska coming to the mouth of the Kenai River in it’s beautiful state of purity and left it in such a horrible mess? Does it mean we turn our back on the waste just for the almighty dollar that is spent by the dip netters? I would love to know if it benefited our economy enough to have our river and beaches polluted for one or two weeks. Everyone leaves like a vacuum and we have the horrible mess they left. One day our beaches and rivers will be so polluted it will effect the fish and the water and we will not longer be able to eat the fish. We were turned into a third world country with pollution beyond belief in one short week. Nothing, absolutely nothing, makes me angier than to have a fisherman tell me he does not like to eat fish!

So more regulations? Maybe a lottery – maybe everyone fish on odd and even days with the “A’s” through K’s” on even days and so on.

My Mom and Dad taught us to eat everything on our plate. My Grandma and Grandpa preached to us, never waste a crust of bread because someday we will so hungry you will wish we had that crust of bread to eat. That rings in my ears to this day. I freeze what bread we do not eat and on rare occasions I tell myself that I am not wasting that crust of bread that I feed the birds. Waste not – Want not!

Fishing in Alaska will never be like the “olden days” when families needed fish they just went to the beach or river and caught exactly what they needed and one more to share for the family that was not able to fish. I canned and froze my share for my family and gave away much more. I am paying back the kindness I was shown as a young mother with three kids, living in a small silver trailer with less than $100 in my pocket, $68 to be exact…when I arrived in “North Kenai” in 1967. The kindness of strangers will forever be the one thing that has endured me to Alaskans. I cooked a fine salmon, gutted and filleted by a man I had never met, in a old cast iron skillet that another person gave to me. I boiled potatoes in a coffee can, generously given to us from their stash of home grown potatos. We were given moose and bear to sustain us. We also were given kind words of wisdom on how to survive in Alaska. My friend Leatha baked two loaves of bread, one for her family and one for us. She also made extra cookies and cakes for us. My friend Jo Anne and I shared food and berries to be preserved and to be canned or frozen for the winter. They taught me how to be so generous and to be helpful to others. They were new to Alaska also – so sticking together during fishing season and moose hunting, by canning and freezing, was our duty and taking pride in keeping our families fed during the long harsh winter months.

Our moose was preserved, just like fish. With every inch of the moose, including the bones, we used in some sort of fashion. The husbands created a meat grinder out of a electric drill nailed to a stump for grinding mooseburger. Leatha, knowing how to make tamales, sent for corn husks and we spent four winter days grinding, cooking and preparing the tamales for the winter. We froze over 40 dozen of them – gave lots away. My kids – (we had six in my family at this time) – and Leatha had three – Jo Anne had two and most of our new to Alaska friends all had kids, so everything was shared.

Cleaning up the bedrooms and washing sheets and bed clothes was a chore as we did not have washers and dryers. While dong so, I come upon stashes of aluminum foil and corn husks under the bunk beds. The kids ate the tamales out of the freezer like popsicles!! The local Johnson’s laundry just opened and was full all the time day and night. So I traveled at times, in my old green Willy’s Jeep to Soldotna with a heaping load of laundry and just enough space for a kid or two that wanted to go along to help. (I smile at this comment!) The laundro-mat was at the “Y” in Soldotna. Old building,when I was going in 1967-68 – it was the place to get the clothes washed and dried within three or four hours. I met many nice ladies during those times in the same “boat” as I was. Young, adventurous and ready to learn anything about how to survive in Alaska, not only in the winter but what was available in the summer. We all gathered clams, mushrooms, salmon, halibut, moose ( I left the bears alone!) and berries. We worked hard to have a pantry full of Alaska food for the winter. The laundro-mat in Soldotna was my School of Alaskan Survival! Sadly that building that housed the laundro-mat was converted into a doctors office, met it’s demise by the way of a big big box store called Walgreen’s. Progress?

Yes maybe?

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