They may do Starbucks in the mornings, I thought, but I rationalized they were the health-food addicted with an eye for morally conscious alternatives to the food I enjoy. I stood in the health food aisle and watched tanned and well-toned ladies flock around a woman with full-nelson biceps who was hawking a green quinoa drink more suited for a medicine cabinet than a food market. The woman chortled its healing and energetic properties that never hurt an animal in its development and the ladies agreed in politically correct nods. I dared a sip of the green lumpy syrup from a small white biodegradable cuplet, which produced an involuntary shudder and dry heave. It tasted green, like classic Nyquil, but without the hallucinogenic effects. “Good huh?” The woman spewed as veins rippled in her neck. I knew I was home in Los Angeles.
I wondered what those healthy women would think if they knew I had eaten polar bear the day before in Greenland. Truthfully, I am not sure what I think either. However, as a lover of travel, I make it my habit to suspend my personal opinions when in another country, and with no arable land there are not a lot of options, but there are some.
In May, Air Greenland began flights out of the U.S. for the first time making the four-hour flight from Baltimore to seal burgers possible – And no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. Does this mean people who would rather see the animals of the ocean at Sea World than on the dinner plate should stay at home? No, I remember one fellow traveler being a strict vegetarian. He managed to find tall salads and red tomatoes; Greenland is not all frozen tundra. I was surprised by the cell phones, infrastructure, and menu options of Greenland. Local stores and restaurants offer a decent selection of imported fruit and vegetables, and no vegetarians starved to death during my stay in Greenland. However, I could not resist diving into Greenlandic cuisine. To me, one of the great treats of travel is sampling the tastes of the destination – even if that means chewing endlessly on a buttery nubbin of whale blubber. I had to remind myself that I was not in Kansas anymore. Hunting is definitely part of Greenland’s culture and part of its survival, though I did want to debate it.
I wanted to infuse some of my culture’s “save the animals” ideology, but I just could not. In fact, one of my favorite memories of Greenland comes from an attractive Greenlandic female and mother of two. She told me, “I love the tracking of the animal, wounding it. Then tiring it out on a slow chase in a kayak” Then she leaned into me, her eyes glowing green, “I love the killing.” I felt flushed and looked around the room to see if anyone had overheard our discussion. I had a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to moralize everything about Greenland. How could anyone like killing? Killing is barbaric. Eating animals is terrible. I tried to tell myself that seals are almost like dolphins but not so smart, and they don’t make those squeaky, talking noises that folks think is so adorable. Sadly, the moral dilemma lost out. I opted for a real Greenlandic experience and made a friend in the process. Actually, I was momentarily in love.
As I reached for my own vegetable-opolis drink made from cold-pressed organica, while the green-quinoa lady flexed and exuded health, I could not shake the thoughts of thinly sliced reindeer, whale blubber and seal. While the morality of the local vegan may have a point, I realized Greenland’s food is of necessity, in which no part of the animal ever goes to waste and I was grateful to come home experience it all.
Written by Devin Galaudet