Traditional Inuit food including seal and whale meat will be offered to expedition cruisers visiting Greenland next year.
The more adventurous dishes will only be available during calls to local communities but other food – including muskox, reindeer, fish and plants – will be served on board new Quark Expeditions ship Quark Ultramarine at special dinners.
Two years of working with Inuit chefs has resulted in the pioneering project called Tundra to Table.
Cruise line chiefs, as well as the locals themselves, are aware of Western sensitivities over seal meat following campaigns starting in the Sixties when Canadian fur hunters were seen clubbing young animals to death. They point out that the seals are killed instantly by shooting, having lived a full life in the wild.
Alex McNeil, the director of innovation at Quark Expeditions, said: ‘Seal and whale products are incorporated into Inuit dishes – those more traditional foods we’re going to leave in the community when we go ashore. Inuits who have harvested those types of ingredients will make them available to travellers who are interested in trying them. Things like raw narwhal skin are better eaten ashore – we won’t be bringing those more sacred ingredients on board.’
Salik Frederiksen, one of the Inuit chefs involved in the project, told me: ‘I really want to serve seal on the ships but in general the world isn’t ready to eat it. People think it’s a very cute animal. The campaigns made it an animal you’re not allowed to touch. I want to inform people more about it but it will be a while before we can do it.’
It might be a myth about ’50 words for snow’ but the Inuit do eat around 50 types of meat, as opposed to the eight or so normally consumed by Europeans. These include muskox – a shaggy-haired animal named after the strong odour it gives off in the mating season – as well as caribou (reindeer), lamb and rabbit. Among the fish served on board will be halibut and herring.
But there are also plenty of vegetarian options, such as plants, mushrooms and even strawberries, which are grown under cover in Greenland. Passengers that go ashore will be encouraged to forage with the chefs.
And there will be some foreign influences as well – such as Danish rye bread, chocolate and even flaked Oreos.
Salik Frederiksen said: ‘Meat is a very big part of our food but we also have a lot of veg as well as berries, herbs and seaweed that we use. Our food is very diverse and it’s something we really want to show because people in general think that Inuits are eating seal and whale and that’s about it.’
Quark insists that all the food will be ethically and sustainably sourced, will not deprive local communities and will not be from any endangered species.
Preparing the dishes (Pictures: Quark Expeditions)
Meals on board will consist of four dishes, with guests given an alternative for three of them. Passengers will sit at two tables of ten, each hosted by an expedition team member, preferably an Inuit guide, and use regional tableware and cutlery. Some of the food will be served on rocks or ice while diners listen to cultural storytelling.
The dishes will feature on two voyages in 2022 and five or six in 2023. Two Inuit chefs, one from Greenland and one from Nunavut in Canada, will be cooking.
Any profits will be ploughed back into the communities.
Mr McNeil, a former expedition guide, said: ‘We cherish our friendships and partnerships with the locals. This will be a platform for Inuit chefs to come on board and cook food – the main objective is to make it true to the communities and traditions it represents. Inuit cuisine has really evolved in Greenland but most of the world hasn’t been exposed to it.’
Salik Frederiksen added: ‘I want the chefs to shine as much as possible. People don’t know about our cuisine and that’s what we really want to highlight more.’