2017 marked my 4th year of traveling the world for good eats. Generally my travels bring me far from Canada, in search of the more exotic edibles not necessarily accustomed to the average North American palate. This year on the other hand, I spent closer to home. While I got a taste of some foods many would call exotic, much of my travels this year had me searching out some of the best a destination had to offer.
This year was spent primarily in the Canadian Arctic where I had been for shorter stints in 2015 and 2016. Each year I’ve returned to the land of no trees I’ve been lucky enough to try a few of the traditional foods of the Inuit. While I got to eat seal, muktuk (narwhal) and caribou again this was no longer anything new to me. What was new though and might anger a few was polar bear meat. Hunted only by the Inuit legally, it is rare to get an opportunity like this so, I took it.
I received a bag of freshly butchered meat/fat from a friend who knew the hunter. It requires 2-3 hours boiling time minimum to become safe to eat. Otherwise it can make you severely ill. (Tip: If you are by chance ever preparing this, open the windows. The smell envelopes the house and is less than pleasant.) The meat shreds like pulled pork and the flavour is kind of a fishy pork, if you can wrap your mind around that. The fat is pungent, but eaten alongside the meat it is quite pleasant.
Spending late summer above the treeline, there are surprisingly many goodies to be foraged for. The tundra was laden with berries. Crowberries, Arctic blueberries, cranberries and bear berries. I couldn’t walk without stepping on something to eat. I was picking Labrador tea by the bag full, but what caught my attention the most was a special herb. Qunguliit or mountain sorrel was sweet and sour, unbelievably fragrant and flavorful. A citrusy essence, it was my favorite tundra edible found largely around flowing streams.
Across the pond, as my dad used to say, I finally made it to Ireland this year. Unfortunately, I barely missed the food festival in West Cork, but my trip did coincide with the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival. I consumed a plethora of seafood over the two days I attended the festival from local mussels, clams, razor clams, smoked salmon, but most importantly an abundance of Kerry oysters. A small oyster, sweet and succulent, paired with Guinness they were made for each other. Arthur Guinness must have had this in mind while crafting his world renowned brew.
Black pudding isn’t for everyone. Why, I don’t know. Probably due to the main ingredient and the idea of it for many people. Blood. Well, I love the taste of blood in multiple preparations from around the world and this is no different. I knew I’d be eating my fair share of this throughout my month in Ireland, especially since it comes on the deliciously unhealthy Full Irish breakfast. Trying numerous versions, Clonakilty reigns supreme in the minds of many an Irish folk. One of my last days in the country, I swung through the small town of Clonakilty, and of course paid the butcher shop a quick visit to see the goods.
Montreal was a city I have wanted to visit for quite some time now. Reasons different from long ago, the food scene is what was calling me now. The restaurant scene here is impeccable and while I did visit a few I’ve wanted to eat at for years, the classics are what had me most excited. Poutine was the first I checked off my list. Nothing I can’t get elsewhere in Canada, but it’s obviously a must while here. Montreal smoked meat is another that can’t be skipped over as well as the Montreal bagel. In my opinion the champion over the New York bagel. I imagine that’s just the Canadian in me.
I’m currently off exploring some of South America for the first time scouring the land for new and exciting edibles. The mouth waters in anticipation!