When people travel for the winter holidays, they may visit England if they're looking for some of that "ye olde Dickensian" feeling, or they might hit the ski slopes in Switzerland if they want to hobnob with the 1%. One place that most may not think to venture, however, is Greenland, a small country whose 56,000 residents give it a population approximately the same size as that of Olympia, Washington. While Greenland may not be known for its tourist amenities and Michelin-starred restaurants, what it can offer the intrepid traveler is the chance to experience a holiday feast that may be unlike anything they've experienced elsewhere.
Greenland is known for its unique meats, one of which is reindeer. Here in the U.S., when we think of these animals at Christmastime, it's usually in the cute context of animated red-nosed ones pulling Santa's sleight or possibly knitted ones adorning ugly sweaters. In Scandinavia, however, reindeer meat has been used as a pizza topping in both Sweden and Finland, while in Greenland it may feature prominently on the holiday menu. Reindeer, called tuttu in Greenland, are the only deer species on the island (although technically they're caribou) and they've been hunted for millennia by the Inuit people. One need not be a hunter to have caribou for Christmas, however, as the meat is commercially available.
Reindeer Aren't The Only Arctic Animals Eaten On Christmas
In addition to roast reindeer, a Greenland holiday dinner might include a few other species we don't often see in supermarkets such as whales, seals, and seagulls or auks. One wintertime treat, called mattak, can give your jaws quite a workout as it consists of a rather tough piece of whale hide. Another one, kiviak, is kind of like Greenland's answer to turducken, only instead of a turkey, duck, and chicken you're stuffing seabirds into a seal skin. Four and 20 seabirds fermented in a seal may not be a dainty dish, but it has its appeal.
Of course, no Christmas dinner would be complete without dessert, and Greenland has a few sweet specialties, as well. Coffee with cake is traditionally served after attending Christmas Eve mass — possibly kalaallit kaagiat, which is a kind of sweet yeast bread studded with raisins and sprinkled with cardamon-flavored confectioner's sugar. Fruit crisps made with berries or apples are also a popular holiday dessert, as is a porridge or ride pudding served with butter and cinnamon sugar. This pudding, which goes by the Danish name of risengrød, is known throughout Scandinavia and Greenland and is considered to be part of the Realm of Denmark despite being over 2,000 miles and several time zones away from the European mainland.
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