- Written by Antonio Pacheco
The first two days of the 39th Annual Festival of Native Arts begin with morning and afternoon workshops.
Volunteers conduct workshops and teach arts and crafts, traditional Native dances and languages, and Akutaq making.
Akutaq is more commonly known as Eskimo ice cream.
The Akutaq workshop is run by Native Alaskan student volunteer Kelsey Wallace who, prior to the class had little experience making Akutaq herself, “I’ve made it maybe six times but my mom always made it and it’s my turn to take over.”
Interacting with the audience, Kelsey asked how much of each ingredient to use and an onlooker called out, “Guestimate!” It might have seemed like a joke and was greeted with laughs but Kelsey and the other volunteers confirmed that much of the recipe is subject to guestimation. The recipe is unique to each village and likely to each household.
No matter where the Akutaq is made or which family makes it, animal fat is traditionally used as the base to hold it all together while the other ingredients are greatly varied. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and even sometimes fish, caribou and other meats are incorporated into Akutaq, though the meaty concoctions aren’t regarded as desserts.
In the workshop Kelsey and another volunteer used Crisco, sugar, a little water and their bare hands to get started. They whipped the Crisco with their hands until it reached a satisfactory fluffiness. They then gently mixed in the blueberries, letting the crowed know that blueberries have a very soft exterior and must be mixed in gently so as to avoid being crushed.
Finished, Kelsey her mother and the other volunteers handed out servings of the Akutaq to the crowd until both the mixing bowls were empty. When the Inuit delicacy was all but eaten, the volunteers and audience crowded together for a group photograph.
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