I am a Southeast Alaskan writer and photographer who is deeply passionate about the power of story for inspiring positive social and environmental change. My photography and writing have been published with local and international magazines and...
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Geoducks and Other (Delicious) Alaskan Curiosities
Get your giggles out now, because the people in this story are pretty serious about geoducks.
This peculiar mollusk, whose undulating breast meat and brontosaurus neck are too enormous for its shell to contain, has an appearance that could make even Stormy Daniels blush. It’s pronounced “gooey-duck” and, while its name and physique aren’t particularly helpful in the marketing department, these bivalves sell. For some, they are a coveted delicacy.
Between 90- 95% of Alaska’s geoducks are exported alive to Asian markets, where, their silky flesh is prized for sushi and other culinary feats. ... Written and photographed for Edible Alaska in 2018 Read the full story online.
Between 90- 95% of Alaska’s geoducks are exported alive to Asian markets, where, their silky flesh is prized for sushi and other culinary feats. Very little “value-add” processing happens to geoducks in state. This means that geoduck isn’t turned into a product like a fillet or a burger that requires further handling.
It also means less money and fewer jobs circulating locally through its harvest. A growing number of divers and businesses, however, are working to ensure that a portion of wild geoducks and other under-recognized seafoods spend more time in Alaskan hands and mouths.
Meet Curtis Brown. Don’t let his soft smile and kind disposition fool you. He is a seasoned geoduck hustler on the Klawock dive scene.
His military roots are apparent in the attention and care he brings to his craft. He is patient, careful, and deliberate, which is important when you are weighed down 50 feet in frigid waters. “Geoducks like the sugar sand,” he says. “The barnacly-broken up- shell sand that when you toss it up, it’ll all settle down. That’s where you’ll find them.”
Curtis slaps on his fishing costume — a dry suit and layers of fleece — with precision. He spits into his mask, rubbing the glass clear before falling gracefully into the drink.
Enter Wildfish Cannery, Klawock’s smoking and canning seafood company. Wildfish is creating new opportunities for those discarded clams by turning them into award-winning smoked and canned geoduck. “One of our missions at Wildfish is to find underutilized resources in Alaska, whether it’s cracked geoducks or octopus bycatch being used as bait, and bring those products to U.S. shelves, and get more value out of them for the fishermen,” says Mathew Scaletta, owner of Wildfish.
Scaletta has fluffy dark hair peppered with silver, and an eclectic mix of colorful tattoos that peek out of his chef coat. On his upper arm, a kitty flies an alien spaceship beaming up a pizza slice and a fried chicken drumstick.
He is serious about this business, however, and serious about food — although most conversations are punctuated with eruptions of contagious laughter. Also, Scaletta can’t eat the geoduck he’s canning. Ironically, he’s allergic to shellfish and slightly bitter about it. “It is still fun, though
That’s right. This isn’t your grandma’s industrially-produced can of pink salmon slush. This is Mathew’s grandmother’s can of delicately smoked white king salmon. Interest in this type of high-quality canned seafood is growing in the U.S. “Tinned seafood is becoming a trendy thing in urban settings. You can go into a very, very nice restaurant in major cities and you’ll find a menu with fine wines and canned seafood.
“Being a responsible community member is fundamental for local businesses… Alaska has a problem, as everyone knows, with resource extraction [by] companies coming in with no long term vision, taking fish en masse out of the ocean or trees off the landscape, leaving and taking the value with them,” says Scaletta.
“That way of doing things is not working anymore. Well, it never worked, at least not for everybody. Part of the healing from that, involves companies being more aware and more conscious of their place in the whole ecosystem of Southeast, the community, and the environment,” says Scaletta.
Thank you to Mathew and WIldfish Cannery for sharing good humor, wisdom, and can after can of incredible seafood. Above all, thank you to Wildfish for always finding ways to integrate environmental and social responsibility into their business at every step. Thank you to Curtis and Matt and for the dive quest and laughter and Edible Alaska for creating a space where stories of change can blossom and motivate. I can't believe you chose these phallic enormous clam as your cover, I totally dig it.