Mom called me up about 9:30 one morning not long ago. She said, “Guess what?” What, I said, expecting some juicy gossip. “Irene is having lustax^ and we’re invited!” Woo hoo. How many people are coming, what can I bring…. Mom says Julia says they have everything. Just come at noon. I am drooling already. I volunteer to cut up some dried salmon just to take in case they don’t have any.
Why so excited you ask? What the heck is lustax^? Lustax^ is one of those true trade item subsistence foods. Traditionally, lustax^ is made from the flippers of the Northern fur seal. We get them from St. Paul, even though, yes, we see fur seal coming through the pass in the spring and around November, but hunters are few and far between. So, no salmon in St. Paul? No fur seal in Unalaska? Perfect trade.
Lustax^ is technically salted, aged flipper. To those of us who grew up with it – it stinks good. My father, on the other hand for example, used to leave the house when we had lustax^, or he would smoke a big, ole cigar.
Setting the table:
You may use a plate for the potatoes and everything else, but you must, must, must cut your lustax^ on the placemat. That is just the way it is done!!
We were extra lucky. There was fur seal meat and fat in the pot, too!!!
Ready to eat!
Several other ingredients are needed.
As we sat down to eat, Mom said, and I am quoting her here, “I was so afraid I wasn’t going to get lustax^ again before I died!”
Foods indigenous to a culture are part of who we are. Elders can absolutely feel unhealthy if they are not able to eat the foods they are used to eating. It is an extremely important tradition to carry with us and to pass down to our younger generations. June’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Shabolin from St. Paul, made the lustax^.
I have to really thank Irene for taking to heart my whining one day about missing sitting and eating native foods with other women, especially lustax^. Within two weeks, I was full of good stuff and basking in the good company. And she gave me seal oil to take home! Qag^aasakung, ladies!