Alaska’s food culture is about what’s hunted, hearty and handy with a dash or two of longing
“What Why How We Eat” exhibition opens Friday, Feb. 22 at the Anchorage Museum
February 21, 2019
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Take a tour of Alaska kitchens and restaurants and you’ll find Shake n’ Bake-coated whale meat in Nome, kimchi burritos in Anchorage, and just about anything in between.
Relying heavily on non-perishables and local bounty that’s hunted, fished or foraged in rural and metropolitan areas, Alaska’s food culture is alive with the spirit of experimentation and adaptation – and that’s just what the Anchorage Museum’s exhibition What Why How We Eat aims to show visitors.
The exhibition presents an expanded view of the vital cultural role food plays in the Arctic, referencing issues like food security and the unique challenges of stocking multi-cultural Northern kitchens, as presented through interviews, art installations, recipes and statistics. For example,
- Sailor Boy Pilot bread sells 98 percent of its tough, oversized crackers to Alaska, where shelf-stable staples are a must in both rural and urban kitchens.
- If a natural disaster disabled the Port of Anchorage, disrupting the food supply, Anchorage grocery store food shelves and cold cases would be bare in just five days.
- Alaskans eat more wild salmon per capita than do people anywhere else in the world.
- Alaskans have been known to check coolers full of favorite foods hard to find in Alaska as luggage when traveling home from the Lower 48 states.
The What Why How We Eat exhibition highlights the multiple cultures and food traditions within Alaska communities like Anchorage, which boasts one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US and where more than 100 languages are spoken in its school district. Thanks, in part, to an influx of refugees from Somalia, Cuba, Iran and Bhutan, food traditions blend with Korean, Filipino, Samoan, Alaska Native, Mexican, Russian and other cultures that weave throughout the city. It provides an interactive space for learning about how food is produced, preserved and shared within these communities, including those of rural Alaska, where subsistence hunting and harvesting from the land are vital aspects of cultural identity as well as survival.
What Why How We Eat also serves as a place for conversation and exchange, hosting all-ages classes, lectures, demonstrations, lunches, dinners and tastings. Visitors will be able to taste, feel and experience the social and physical dimensions of Alaska’s food culture through an abundance of public programming, including:
- Urban Harvest classes sharing traditional food preparation and preservation skills, including foraging, butchering and canning
- Group meals and food-related films
- Drop-in food preparation and cooking demonstrations
- Bike tours to community gardens
- Community talks and workshops with local chefs, restaurateurs, small business owners, academics, farmers and subsistence hunters
The What Why How We Eat exhibition is on view Feb. 22, 2019, through Jan. 12, 2020, and is sponsored in part by The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Mat-Su Heath Foundation, First National Bank Alaska and John and Carolann Weir. For more information, including a list of current exhibition-related programs, visit anchoragemuseum.org/akfoodculture.
About the Anchorage Museum
The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center is the largest museum in Alaska, and one of the top 10 most visited attractions in the state. The museum’s mission is to connect people, expand perspectives and encourage global dialogue about the North and its distinct environment. Learn more at www.anchoragemuseum.org.
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