Some things in life are given. Like, there are few places on earth where Tom Petty covers don’t make the beer dance bounce and you can never get enough Patsy Cline impersonators at a talent show. Adding accordion, kamik boots, and french style jigging is the best way to win at competitive square dancing. Jerry cans, plane tickets, and gun cases never fail to please as raffle prizes. Other things are harder to figure out, like Inuktitut words beyond pop, chips, smokes, sex, and the phrases I now know in five obscure languages due to my apparent propensity for birth travel: “push my god, push.” Today I accidentally called someone’s lady parts a “bearded seal;” I think I might be getting beyond my capacity for syllabic accuracy and new linguistic accumulation. Oh well.
Other things would take a lifetime. A month-in means basic cultural understanding; more time on the ground means witnessing and holding more complex stories. More love and happiness here equals some difficult evenings in my head where I ponder solutions and problems and ways to feel better about being a person dipping in and out of this beautiful place; being yet another transient GN (Government of Nunavut) employee overwhelmed at the state of some folks’ mental health and the fact that thirteen people can be squished into a one bedroom apartment, all of whom are on a 10 year waiting list for some solo housing for them and their man.
What drove the love last week was Pakallak Thyme. The annual spring festival marked the period of massive melt and the town turning into a giant brown waterfall. Apparently permafrost equals giant puddles everywhere. It also marked the warmest spring anyone can remember- and the subsequent re-scheduling of the fishing derby- but that is for another post. Highlights included a community feast where I sampled caribou, seal, musk-oxen, and beluga; nightly dance competitions; the above-mentioned talent show; children staying up every night until 2am; dog sled racing; craft sales; a mini-mushers carnival; concerts featuring local bands; and some sweet fireworks on the lake accompanied by beers and a pre-dinner of the best roast beef I have had in awhile. I spent every evening at the community center. Elementary school gyms and their transcendent florescent lighting really are the epicenter of small towns. To celebrate Pakallaking my office hosted a brunch potluck and a newspaper hat making contest. I lost the hat competition despite my arctic animal sea creature origami additions, but the winner had 18th century wig-like curls cascading down the back of their hat. She nailed it. Basically, it was one of the best weeks I can remember.
While I can’t send you the fun of Pakallak Thyme or solve complex social problems in one go, I can give you a taste of a great dinner for a quiet Sunday or a pre-outing Friday. Its up to you where you want to take it. Roast beef with some beers? A gorgeous dinner that will put you in the state of mind for some philisophical debate around solutions to poverty and generational effects of colonialism and residential schools? Its up to you. Life is complicated.
This version was not as good as whatever my mom does to make her roast incredible (and I got lazy and didn’t go for the yorkshire pudding) but it was quick, tender, made delicious for sandwich meat for leftovers, and was a fine thing to share with new friends. Happy Spring everyone!
Easy Sunday Roast: (Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Chef at Home)
1.5 kg quality beef roast
2 medium onions, loosely chopped
2 carrots, loosely chopped
1 garlic bulb, separated
some fresh italian herbs if you have them, or dried basil/oregano/parsley if not
freshly ground black pepper
1) Buy a beef roast (Heather got ours 1/2 off at the northern store! WIN!).
2) Take your beef out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven.
3) Preheat your oven to 475°F. There’s no need to peel the vegetables – just give them a wash and roughly chop them up. Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled.
4) Pile all the vegetable blend, garlic and herbs into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle them all over with olive oil. Coat the beef with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the meat. Place the beef on top of the vegetables.
5) Place the roasting tray in the preheated oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 400°F. and cook for 1 hour for medium beef. If you prefer it medium-rare, take it out 5 to 10 minutes earlier. For well done, leave it in for another 10 to 15 minutes. If you peek in the oven and it looks dry you can baste the beef with some stock or wine or water halfway through.
6) In case you want roasted vegetables or potatoes, you can add them into the oven in another 15 minutes and it will all turn out at the same time.
7) When the beef is cooked to your liking, take it out of the oven and transfer the beef to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside while you make gravy from the drippings.
8) Serve with roasted root vegetables (turnips, carrots, yams, potatoes), yorkshire pudding, salad, and a big glass of wine.