Two summers ago, my grandparents moved out of the house where they’ve lived since the 1970s and out to a city about an hour away. I don’t get to see them as often now, so when they come down, they bring me a lot of stuff. Some zucchini and kale from the garden, a bowl of lettuce that I have to keep alive, raspberry jam from last year’s crop, a homemade scrapbook from the 1950s about a quilt sewn by Queen Mary—I literally never know what to expect.
Also from the 1950s (1952, to be precise): Eskimo Cook Book, created by the teachers and students of Shishmaref Day School in Alaska.
My grandmother visited Alaska when she was a teenage, staying with her aunt and uncle who were living there at the time. She talks about that trip often, always with joy. My grandma was the oldest daughter in her family, and her mother relied on her, perhaps too much. I get the feeling that the trip to Alaska was the first moment of freedom she had. Even today, my grandma and grandpa keep going back, taking advantage of the regular Vancouver to Alaska cruise season.
This typewritten book is one of her souvenirs from that first trip. Until she brought it down for me, I’d never seen it before. Along with that hand-drawn cover, there are tiny line drawings of the ingredients: willow meats, shee fish, ptarmigan, and a bear (“Most of the people like the bear feet better than the meat.”)
My grandma gave me this book because I love to cook and she loves to give me recipes. She doesn’t know she’s contributed the oldest zine in my library.