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Home » Archives » August 2005 » Vacuum Packing and a Film in progress

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08/29/2005: "Vacuum Packing and a Film in progress"


Instead of writing, I could or should be vacuum packing salmon and putting it in the freezer. Vacuum packing, which I was new too not so long ago, is a slightly noisy, at times cumbersome way to seal and suck away oxygen around foods or other valuables.

My dilemma over time is not mine alone, either are my thoughts about food choices. In this era, and I suppose through many, what we put in our mouths and where it comes from seems complex and at times frightening. I recently brought up the topic of growing your own food or trying to catch it and process it for yourself with a friend living outside a big city. Her response was that it was something most people simply didnít have time for. In other words careful eating is a luxury. Certainly the cost of a lot of sustainable organic GMO free foods can be daunting and isn't always in my budget.

I first came up to Alaska to collaborate with anthropologist Sharon Gmelch and work on the documentary film, A Matter of Respect, over 15 years ago. I started to see how Native Alaskans struggled not only for the rights to do, what is called subsistence, but to fit doing it into modern work schedules and a cash economy. The more time Iíve spent here, the more I have seen how the herring spawn excites people, representing both the arrival of spring and the potential taste of herring eggs as well as the joy taken in sharing fresh salmon, halibut, geoduck clams, or other traditionally gathered and made foods with elders. Iíve also ended up doing a lot of work with public and community health projects and seen what processed and convenience food has done to health of people, with the rise of diabetes, obesity and perhaps if the link can scientifically be made, to cancer too.

Iím a former urban-suburban vegetarian who ended up marrying a commercial fisherman and living in a small town on an island. Iím still contemplating packaging the salmon, as I write, but I also have been, with the help of Shirley Thompson and others, developing and fundraising a project called Open Arms. In this film, we will follow three women, who might never have expected to be out getting there own meat, hunting for deer. Through these women and my own commentaries and tangents, we will go a serious and humorous exploration into what we put into our mouths, while checking the assumptions we make about a womanís place in the modern world. The conversations of our hunters will lead the film into issues from toxic and genetically modified foods to our attitudes towards guns and our relationship to animals and the natural resources we consume.