Alaska life

Learning to Cook with Vera Lestenkof

My friend, Vera Lestenkof, shared a heart-warming story about recipes. It brought up so many memories about learning how to cook with my mom and family. I admit, I am not the best cook, but I do know how to prepare some key traditional Alaskan dishes. I will share her story, then some of my photos of dishes I’ve cooked.

It’s story time. Not long ago I was in a group discussion and we were asked to share something about ourselves, to help get to know each other better. So, I choose my story about recipes. When I was young and had little babies. I didn’t know how to cook. I subscribe to cookbook clubs. My late father-in-law gave me books.

One time, when we lived with my in laws, I tried making bread. I tried to double the recipe and put too much salt. The bread loaves came out flat top. I was so sad, but my father-in-law said, “We can still eat it.” He ate with dinner and made toast, he made me feel better. I would read the recipe books like a book. Everything got jumbled up in my mind. So, I started to create my own recipe. They always turned out good.

A good recipe to share is take a bag of chicken, dip in milk, mix with Ore-Ida mashed potato flakes and Ranch powder dressing mix. Bake for one hour. My family loved it. I couldn’t grasp the measurements part of a recipe.

The group liked my story and said I should write it down and so I decided to share it today. To this day I cook by memory. Except for occasional box meal. And the hard part now is writing it down. When my children ask how I made something, I am challenged. I praise all good cooks and it don’t have to be perfect. My bucket list includes a few recipes. I hope you enjoy my story. Have a great day and much blessings.

-Vera Lestenkof

Thank you to Vera for sharing this awesome story! I think I am more like her in that I don’t follow recipes that are written down. Here are some photos I’ve taken of the dishes I’ve prepared this year. Alaska Natives and many Alaskans hunt, fish and gather for their foods. Most foods are nutritious and supplement the store-bought foods.

We dip-net for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in July. I bake salmon with a mixture of ingredients, never the same. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
We dip-net for salmon on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers in July. I bake salmon with a mixture of ingredients, never the same. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I got some muktuk from a relative. It doesn't take much preparation, besides cutting it up into bite-size pieces. It can be eaten with a meal or chopped vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I got some muktuk from a relative. It doesn’t take much preparation, besides cutting it up into bite-size pieces. It can be eaten with a meal or chopped vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Baked hooligan fish taste pretty good when baked in flour or another mixture. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Baked hooligan fish taste pretty good when baked in flour or another mixture. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I like to boil, then bake moose ribs with barbecue sauce. I usually have rice and some vegetables with this delicious meal. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I like to boil, then bake moose ribs with barbecue sauce. I usually have rice and some vegetables with this delicious meal. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I love moose soup or stew. I make it with a mix of pasta and vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
I love moose soup or stew. I make it with a mix of pasta and vegetables. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

I grew up eating these foods and many more. Living off the land and having a connection to the land and animals is how Alaska Natives have survived. It is hard work and sometimes hard to get traditional foods, but they are all very delicious. I hope you enjoyed this post and didn’t get too hungry. 🙂 I’m grateful for my family for teaching me how to hunt, fish and cook traditional foods.

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