I'm proud to have worked in and called Alaska my home this year. Before I arrived, like most people Down South, I'd never tasted much less cooked moose. Alaskans are just as serious about food as we are in Chicago, New York City, or San Francisco. Demographers should note that my Alaskan friends watch more Food Network and Top Chef too. When it gets pitch-black by 3:00 p.m. in the winter, you watch a lot of cable.
As the chef for a fishing boat and lodge, whose predecessor was suddenly extradited, I inherited a kitchen with the ubiquitous Alaskan chest freezers, complete with freezer-burned mystery meat. When you hunt, fish, and have to travel at least five hours by ferry to the nearest Costco, you stock in bulk.
In nearly every other kitchen in this country, that meat would have ended up in the trash.
I donated mine to the raptors.
The Alaska Raptor Center is a rehab house. Instead of celebrities, they take in injured birds of prey. The Raptor Center exists thanks solely to volunteers and donations, of cash and food.
The Center's goal is to release birds back into the wild, but that's not always possible, depending on injuries. Some birds live out their lives in the educational habitats open to visitors.
When a bird can be released, the Raptor Center announces the event in the paper, the Daily Sitka Sentinel, and on the local NPR station, KCAW. Not that it's necessary. If you grocery shop regularly, at Seamart or Lakeside, you'll hear all the news before it's announced.
I was lucky enough to witness an eagle release this summer.
This eagle was named Aunt B. She had been hit by a car in April on the other side of town, on Halibut Point Road, near the other end of Sitka's 14 miles of road. She'd suffered a broken wing, embedded with a fish hook, and a broken foot. By the time she was ready for release she had doubled in weight, which was only about 12 pounds. Eagles have an average wing span of 6 to 8 feet, but only weigh 7 to 15 pounds because their bones are hollow. Females are larger.
The sight of a hooded bald eagle cradled in someone's lap is both piteous and awesome. This magnificent creature was created to soar.
And thanks to volunteers, donations, and more than just a little bit of pure faith, she did.
If this vision of our national symbol plus the campaigns that have bombarded us for two years have not yet stirred you to vote, then let me just say it.
And while I'm at it, vote for Barack Obama.
By the way this last photo below from the above photoset is of another eagle. Yes, I'm having fun with our national symbol. Because I can. That's what's great about America. Even Alaska.