Photo: Bethany Goodrich

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By Megan Johnson

The first time I had salmon was during my first year in Alaska. It was freshly caught, grilled on a bed of hot coals, simple – with butter, some salt and pepper. I ate it from a paper plate, while sitting on a stump by a roaring fire, listening to the sound of the ocean while the scent of spruce, smoke, and humidity floated in the air. The thing I remember most about that day wasn’t necessarily the buttery richness of the salmon or the wild Alaskan air – but instead a sense of welcome from the people around me. 

As someone who came to Alaska from the high desert of eastern Oregon, learning about southeast Alaskan living has been a steep and beautiful learning curve. The rich culture, the beauty of the environment, and embracing subsistence has taught me many things. The common denominator with all of these experiences, has been the relationships forged and the privilege of sharing. 

Photos: Bethany Goodrich 

Food is survival; it is subsistence. But it is also medicine, emotion, language, connection, culture, and so much more. When we celebrate and precipitate joy – we eat. During the dark moments of grief, death, and loss – food is comfort. Ingredients are foraged, from the earth, the supermarket and the windowsill – we cultivate, create, and share with one another. We break bread in sacrament; we bring jarred salmon out of respect. There is comfort in cupcakes and hidden joy in wild berries. 

The great joys and heartaches of my life have orbited around a kitchen table or an evening fire surrounded by other humans of different cultures, races, and backgrounds with hearts that beat like mine. Sharing, much like culture – is a privilege, an art and an honor. Food is the same. 

Photo: Megan Johnson

The recent COVID pandemic has made sharing and connecting increasingly difficult, but really, we need this now more than ever. There are many ways we can continue to share and connect while still practicing physical distancing protocols.This is also an ideal time to utilize local and subsistence food resources. 

Sharing food during this time is okay…just keep these tips in mind: 

  • Practice good hand washing 
  • Maintain social distancing as needed 
  • Follow the core four food safety practices: clean, separate, cook, chill 
  • It’s OK to take food to pregnant and nursing moms, or immunocompromised individuals 
  • You don’t need to wear a mask while preparing food 
  • Ask about food allergies 
  • Don’t use soap (or bleach) to clean vegetables and fruits 
  • Be creative! Work with friends and family to find ways to continue to communicate and share safely 

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention