Can You Stomach It?

Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks
Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks

A continuation of our fascination with fish stomachs

The following fish tale comes from Elie Hunt, a member of the Kwakuitl Nation of British Columbia. Her husband, George Hunt, translated her account into English between 1908 and 1914. A relatively rare example of oral history, worth sharing. (I’ll confess that my visceral reaction to this food is not exactly politically correct — “YUCK” comes to mind — but then a lot of what I eat might provoke the same reaction in someone else.)

Boiled Salmon-Guts (Mestag.ilaku)

Fish stomachs Elie Hunt
Elie HUnt

After the woman has cut open the silver-salmon caught by her husband by trolling, she squeezes out the food that is in the stomach, and the slime that is on the gills. She turns the stomach inside out; and when she has cleaned many, she takes a kettle and pours water into it.

When the kettle is half full of water, she puts the stomach of the silver-salmon into it. After they are all in she puts the kettle on the fire; and when it is on the fire, she takes her tongs and stirs them. When (the contents) begin to boil, she stops stirring. The reason for stirring is to make the stomachs hard before the water gets too hot; for if they do not stir them, they remain soft and tough, and are not hard. Then the woman always takes up one of (the stomachs) with the tongs; and when she can hold it in the tongs, it is done; but when it is slippery, it is not done.

Fish guts(When it is done,) she takes off the fire what she is cooking. It is said that if, in cooking it, it stays on the fire too long, it gets slippery. Then she will pour it away outside of the house, for it is not good if it is that way.

If it should be eaten when it is boiled too long, (those who eat it) could keep it only a short time. They would vomit. Therefore they watch it carefully. When it is done, the woman takes her dishes and her spoons, and she puts them down at the place where she is seated; but her husband invites whomever he wants to invite.

For more on Elie Hunt, click HERE.

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