Thursday, January 22, 2009

Local Food or Tourist Food?

So hard for me to tell the difference!

One of the first things I saw in the Anchorage airport -other than a row of mounted animal heads, but that is another story - was an array of unusual syrups and jams in the airport convenience/souvenir shop. The shelves contained syrup made from birch and something called fireweed, and jams and jellies made from things like salmonberries and lingonberries. I know what those things are now, but at the time, it gave me serious pause.

Since that day, I have only seen these products at touristy places - the downtown weekend market, the souvenir aisles at Fred Meyer's, and tourist shops downtown. I have tasted some of them. I like birch syrup, and like the salmonberry jelly's tanginess. However, I have yet to work my way through most of it.

Why? I kind of wonder, mostly because of where I find it - do actual people from here eat these things, or is it specialty stuff put on for the tourists? I mean, I know it's edible. But the fact that I never see them out on regular store shelves makes me wonder. Now, on the one hand, I do know it is difficult for small producers to get space on retail shelves - there is a lot of competition for that space. On the other hand, I know a lot of long-time residents do go to the downtown market. So it's hard for me to tell. Also, it doesn't really matter in terms of tastiness - things are or aren't good based on your own tastes regardless of who else likes them - or at least they should be. But still, I am curious.

So if you are longtime Alaskan, do you use birch syrup? Do you really each salmonberry jam on your toast? Is it available someplace outside tourist dens and I've just missed it? I welcome your comments!


Anonymous said...

Speaking from experience, I don't think the majority of Alaskans buy these products as they are making them in their own home. Not only do I find my own salmonberry jam to be much tastier than the store bought ones with all the preservatives, I also find it much cheaper! I do have to say that Cloudberry and Raspberry are my personal favorites. I personally am not a huge fan of birch syrup, I do get some from friends and use it for baking though.

Ben said...

I have had any of these products when they're given away as free samples at the market. They were ok. As you wrote, if the prodict was more readily available I might buy some. I have also seen it for sale at the Animal Food Warehouse in Wasilla and Pet Zoo in Eagle River. That doesn't make any sense to me. I know its not pet food and I would say it is probably more tourist food than anything else.

That being said, nothing compares to pure maple syrup from the east coast. I always bring back a gallon when visiting family. And when I run out, they send more!