Malaya Qaunirq Chapman didn’t even know there were scallops in Pangnirtung until she travelled to the community to try them on television. Now she’s sure there isn’t a better scallop around.
“The scallops from Pang are like a bite of sweet, tender, delicate, amazing taste that is hard to describe,” says the host of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation’s adventure food show Nunavummi Mamarijavut.
It’s her first day back in Iqaluit from her new home in Kuujjuaq and the TV host is gearing up to spend the summer filming the third season of the Inuktitut-language series that translates to “the food we love in Nunavut.”
“It’s the journey of a young person who wants to learn everything to do with the outdoors, whether it’s hunting, fishing, cooking, butchering, or animal migrations,” says Qaunirq Chapman. Nunavummi Mamarijavut is more than a cooking show, she adds. “If I think about something that I want to try, then I find someone who is willing to teach me and then we go on this adventure together.”
Those adventures—in dog sledding, seal hunting, char fishing, and clam digging—have brought her to communities like Kugluktuk and Yellowknife, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake, Arctic Bay, Clyde River, and Chesterfield Inlet. That’s where she hunted her first caribou, from a moving boat while aiming towards land. On her second try, she shot the animal through its heart.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is what elation feels like, this is what it looks like,’” she says. “It’s not even just the shooting of the animal, but this is what my ancestors did, this is what my grandfather did, this is what my grandfather’s father did and now I get to do it. It’s a privilege.”
So far she’s learned to make traditional dishes like boiled hooves (the gelatine is good for your skin and gut), how to butcher a seal and boil the meat to make uujuq, and one dish Qaunirq Chapman was apprehensive of at first—fermented fish heads.
“It sounds strange, but it’s a delicacy,” she says. Then there are episodes where she whips up northern-inspired fusion dishes, like red Thai curry using maqtaq, and, after her trip to Pangnirtung, spaghetti carbonara featuring those mouth-watering mollusks.
Qaunirq Chapman, now 31, discovered her love for hunting as an adult, not having had access to on-the-land training as a child in Iqaluit. The old ways still feel new to her, but she knows there are others in her generation who feel the same.
“I want each season to be a learning experience, and to re-spark that passion for Inuit food, Inuit togetherness; revitalizing what we may not have learned if our elders weren’t teaching us.”