Thursday, April 06, 2006

Frozen for 30,000 years.

Today, April 6th …

There are many intriguing reports (read: myths, legends and anecdotes) of someone-somewhere eating something retrieved from deep inside a glacier, but vague reports do not culinary history make. There is one, and only one, well documented episode, and it took place on this day in 1984.

The location was Alaska, the diners were brave paleontologists (speaking from sunny sub-tropical Queensland, Australia, it seems self-evident that one would have to be brave to choose to be in Alaska), and the meat was bison meat from an individual nick-named “Blue Babe”. It had been frozen for 30,000 years.

Two fearless participants wrote about it.

R. Dale Guthrie wrote:

To climax and celebrate [taxidermist] Eirik Granqvist’s work with Blue Babe, we had a bison stew dinner for him and for Bjorn Kurten … A small part of the mummy’s neck was diced and simmered in a pot of stock and vegetables. We had Blue Babe for dinner. The meat was well aged but still a little tough, and it gave the stew a strong Pleistocene aroma, but nobody there would have dared miss it.

Bjorn Kurten wrote:

The meat in its abdomen had spoiled before the bison was completely frozen. But in the neck area small pieces of meat were found attached to the skull. The lions had left so little there that it had frozen through while the meat was still fresh. When it thawed it gave off an unmistakable beef aroma, not unpleasantly mixed with a faint smell of the earth in which it was found, with a touch of mushroom. About a dozen of us gathered .... on April 6, 1984, to partake of Bison priscus stew. The taste was delicious, and none of us suffered any ill effects from the meal.

Bison is of course, ‘buffalo’. If you should come across a well-aged piece of it while hiking in the frozen wastes, you could make some of that rugged outdoor person’s snack and standby – pemmican.

From ‘The Market Assistant, Containing a Brief Description of Every Article of Human Food Sold in the Public Markets of the Cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn’ (1867)

Pemmican … This is prepared by cutting the lean meat into thin slices, exposing it to the heat of the sun or fire, and, when dry, pounding it to a powder. It is then mixed with an equal weight of buffalo suet, and stuffed into bladders.

Tomorrow: Mussels at Maxim’s.

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