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Welcome to Northern Delights, Collected Wisdom's new business venture: a restaurant that celebrates the traditional diet of our Far North. Our special today is uncooked caribou liver with a raw-blubber dipping sauce.

THE QUESTION

Before the days of air transportation, how did the Inuit satisfy the need for fruits and vegetables in their diet? Kevin Howes of Burlington, Ont., wants to know.

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THE ANSWER

The Inuit had various seasonal plant foods available to them, writes Ernie Comerford of London, Ont., who spent six years in Nunavut and 22 in the Northwest Territories.

"Some flowering plants have leaves and stems that can be eaten like a salad, or they can be used to make soup or to flavour stews," he writes. "Other plants have roots that can be used the same way … [and]lichen can be boiled to make a digestible food that is nutritious. Also, there are edible puffballs and mushrooms, not to mention edible species of seaweed."

He adds that most berries aren't damaged by freezing so, if the Inuit could find them in the winter, they could still eat them.

Kelsey Eliasson of Churchill, Man., however, points out that the Inuit have traditionally obtained most of their vitamins from eating raw or mostly raw meat and blubber, and he brings CW's attention to an article on this subject called The Inuit Paradox by Patricia Gadsby, published online in Discover magazine in October, 2004.

Ms. Gadsby says that people in more southerly climes commonly get vitamins A and C from fruit and vegetables, and vitamin D from dairy products and exposure to sunlight, a scarce commodity in the Arctic winter. "But vitamin A, which is oil-soluble, is also plentiful in the oils of cold-water fishes and sea mammals," she writes, "as well as in the animals' livers, where fat is processed. These dietary staples also provide vitamin D, another oil-soluble vitamin."

Meanwhile, organ meats in the traditional Inuit diet were a good source of vitamin C if eaten raw. (Cooking would have essentially destroyed the vitamin.) These meats included raw caribou liver and seal brain. Raw kelp also provided a good supply of vitamin C. "Still higher levels," writes Ms. Gadsby, "were found in whale skin and muktuk" - whale skin with its underlying blubber.

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Indeed, Sue Munro of the geography department of North Toronto Collegiate points out that the muktuk of the narwhal, on an ounce-per-ounce basis, contains more vitamin C than lemons do.

Now, after all that, how about some akutuq for dessert - wild berries mixed with whipped fat?

FURTHER NOTICE

In response to our recent item on how many Canadians live south of the 49th parallel, David Hykle of Fergus, Ont., points out that Minnesota actually extends north of the 49th into Ontario by about 30 kilometres in an area that contains the tiny community of Angle Inlet on Lake of the Woods. "There are many stories concerning this geographical anomaly," he writes. "Suffice to say that it is primarily cottage country at its best."

HELP WANTED

  • Jackie Phillips of Toronto recently took a large, old TV to be recycled and was surprised by how weighty it was. What makes these old TVs so heavy?
  • Why do we have to pay duty on items we've purchased in the United States when we return to Canada? asks Max Stallkamp of Vancouver. After all, both countries are members of the North American free-trade agreement. Does free trade not apply to individuals?
  • Is there an evolutionary reason for being ticklish? asks Eric Morris of Montreal. And why are some people ticklish and others are not?

Send answers and questions to wisdom@globeandmail.com. Please include your name, location and a daytime phone number.

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