How to cook a whale found dead.


This is my 1995 translation of the George Hunt 1914 translation of a old Kwakuitl receipe given by Elie Hunt in the Kwakuitl language. Click herefor a text transcript of the George Hunt translation. A brief biograpy and history of the recipe collection is here.

Most importantly, you cannot eat it all by yourself! So the first step is to call for a party and invite all your friends, relatives, and local dignitaries.

A special occasion, like the finding of a whale, calls for the use of ceremonial names. Though a hunter, a man, has found the whale, preparing food is women's work, and therefore the daughter of the hunter has the rights to prepare the whale. She is given the ceremonial name, Place-of-cutting-Blubber. Note that it is the daughter who has the rights, not the wife(s), due to the family rights in a matrilineal society.

Once everybody is ready, you bring tools, and the hunter who found the whale leads everybody in their canoes to the spot where he found it. The father of the hunter has the honor of speaking for the daughter of the hunter to "make a toast" for the occasion. It is customary to first declare how wonderful the whale is, being full of delicious blubber, etc.. Then you should give the choicest piece (the dorsal fin) to the ranking dignitary, who is typically the chief of the village.

Everybody else gets an equal size piece of the whale according to the order of their rank. The first piece starts at the whale neck, and they work from the top down and from the head to the tail. Generally the pieces are cut about a fathom (6 feet) in width. After the ceremonial pieces are given out, the women go to work to gather the remaining fat from the whale. The last step is cut off a piece of the tale of the whale.

When this is done, the pieces are loaded in the canoes, and everybody goes home to do the remainder of the preparation. The hunks of blubber are split into strips four fingers thick (two inches). These pieces are then cut into half inch strips.

A kettle of water is set to boil on the beach, and the strips are boiled to render the oil. The oil is ladled off and stored in watertight storage boxes. Whale oil is best stored in the corner of your house.

Then, you take cedar bark, and split it into long strips. Poke holes in the middle of the boiled pieces of whale blubber, and thread them onto the long strips of bark. When finish these strings of blubber are now called "tied-in-the-middle".

Dry these strips in the smoky rafters of your house for at least a month. When you want to eat some "tied-in-the-middle" take it down from the rafters, and boil it in a kettle until tender. This takes a lot of boiling. Be sure to eat it hot, because when it is cold, it is really tough. If you boil more than you can eat, you can dry it again, and reheat it later. This dish is called "eating boiled blubber tied in the middle", a real treat!


To Bruce Hallman's home page.Please send me email! My email address is: