(Photos at right were found on the Internet; they were not taken by Seth Kugel nor are they specific to his tale. The middle photo shows a commercial whale meat operation; the bottom shows whale steak at a restaurant.)
Under orders from my Norwegian host Kaia Tetlie, I was happily carving a 10-pound hunk of dark purple whale meat into rectangular steaks. They would marinate in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper for 24 hours, to be grilled the next night for Kaia’s blowout summer party in Kabelvag, a fishing-cum-tourism town — population 1,700 — in the Lofoten Islands. The party was to run all night, although the definition of night is tricky on this archipelago, which lies within the Arctic Circle: the sun rose over Kabelvag on May 23 at 1:26 a.m. and won’t set again until July 18 at 12:42 a.m. (And even then for just 52 minutes.)
Whaling, of course, is a fraught subject, but I don’t know enough about the local tradition to have a deeply held opinion. And even if I thought it despicable, you’d be seriously overestimating my moral fiber to think that I’d make a principled stand at a joyous occasion in a faraway land. With a free place to sleep and a crowd full of ready-made friends, tell me to cut whale steaks and I say “How thick?”I decided to broach the subject of whale eating ethics with my fellow butcher Anna (also making her first attempt at whale butchering). Like every Norwegian I spoke to on the matter, Anna defended the practice, at least as it is conducted in their home country. To summarize their argument: first, whale hunting is legal and done humanely under strictly enforced quotas; second, the species hunted is not endangered; and third, let he whose country hath not sinned against animals cast the first lobe of foie gras.
So what's your thought on eating whale meat? Loads of people have commented on Seth's blog, most of them on the anti side. That's where I am too, though I understand that's it's a big part of Arctic culture. My wife and I are dealers in Inuit art, and the Inuit continue to hunt and eat whales, though the art they create with the whale bones cannot be imported to the U.S.