Last summer, my son picked to go to Greenland to see the icecap “before it melts.” It was his big wish for his 16th birthday and he had been asking for it for at least two years.
It wasn’t that he literally feared that the icecap would be gone if we didn’t go now. He wanted to see the magnitude of it, feel its magnificence, in the understanding that Greenland is one of earth’s places where global warming has immediate impact.
Researching food in this arctic country I came across images of a dish called Kiviaq, described as a traditional delicacy of whole auks (sea birds) fermented in a seal skin bag, feathers and all. I came this close to bailing on him. But then, he pointed out and rightly so: we didn’t travel to Greenland for the food. This was not a food trip.
Ok but so, what else do they eat in Greenland?
The Greenlandic population of about 60,000 is predominantly Inuit and traditionally they live on what their land provides. Arctic game like muskox, reindeer and snow hare, sea birds, fish and, yes, marine mammals like seal and whale (bound by international quota) are a traditional part of the local diet.
Suaasat is a traditional dish most commonly made with fresh-caught seal, or another available meat: reindeer, whale or seabirds. Most restaurants, however, cater to an international taste and it is easier to find burgers or pizza than it is seal soup. That said, local meats like muskox and reindeer can generally be found on restaurant menus, from burgers to stews.
Local seafood includes arctic char, halibut, sea trout, mackerel and capelin, tiny fish in the salmon family, shrimp, scallop, crab and mussels.
Vegetables are expensive as they are mostly imported. Potatoes and turnips are grown in south Greenland.
If you want to try Greenlandic traditional foods like seal soup, smoked reindeer and whale blubber, try a Greenlandic buffet in Nuuk or Ilulissat. Both cities offer excellent restaurants to try Greenlandic specialties, including a chef-inspired taste of Greenland at restaurant Sarfalik in Nuuk and restaurant Ulo in Ilulissat.
I was actually sold on Greenland the moment I researched destinations and activities. It was an adventure that planted a huge smile on my face from the moment I arrived, and a feeling of sadness when we left two weeks later.
For the travel story can I proudly refer to this article that I wrote for the Boston Globe: Go Greenland This Summer! Or take a brief image trip below.