Mom’s Spaghetti

On Faces of Alaska, host Kathleen McCoy will be taking a look at the family histories of musher Lance Mackey, me, Alaska Native leader Willie Hensley and Olympian Holly Brooks, along with local genealogist Barbara Samuels, for broadcast on public radio’s KSKA and public television’s KAKM, through the month of January 2011.

Kathleen’s last question to me in preparation for taping the show was, Because food is part of family, I am asking in each case if there is a family recipe or food that you grew up with and loved. If not, no worries, no invention necessary, although if you hated the food you grew up eating, that might be fun to hear as well.

Well. If there is one thing I can talk about, it’s food, and I’ll go on record right now as not hating it. This was my reply.

As anyone knows who has ever helped butcher out a moose, what you have most of when you’re done is scraps. That’s where I came in, me hanging grimly onto the crank of an old-fashioned meat grinder. I stuffed the scraps down the chute and the crank turned a screw that pushed the scraps through a perforated metal plate. I had to put the scraps through twice, once through the plate with the big holes and again through the plate with the little holes. It was hard, sweaty work. There were bugs. There was blood and meat scraps in my hair. I hated it.

The only thing that kept me on that damn crank was Mom’s spaghetti, which (after the heart, the tongue and the liver, the only things on a moose you can eat right away) was our first meal from the moose. She never measured anything but it went like this:

Bacon, chopped and browned. Very important! Everything good started with bacon.
Add chopped onion and brown.
Add moosemeat, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and brown.
Add sliced canned mushrooms, a small can of tomato paste, a large can of chopped tomatoes (remember we didn’t have anything fresh back in those days). Stir together, cover and let simmer all afternoon. Serve over spaghetti and shake Kraft Parmesan lavishly overall.

Heaven on the tongue and even better the next day. Or so I thought then. I still make Mom’s spaghetti today, with an emended recipe. It is known as “Auntie Dana’s Famous Spaghetti” in the family, but it all started with Mom.

Her beans were pretty good, too. Dad made sautéed ptarmigan breasts which he then finished in the oven with a wine sauce. He didn’t use recipes, either, so it was different every time, and delicious every time. Truth to tell, I might miss his ptarmigan as much as I miss him.

Broadcast dates, times and channels for my segment:

Wednesday, Jan. 12
2:00 pm & 7:00 pm
on KSKA FM 91.1

Thursday, Jan. 13
8:00 pm on KAKM
Channel 7 TV

Saturday, Jan. 15
9:00 pm on KAKM
Channel 7 TV


2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Just read your three quotes about Alaska. My cousin Dick Galleher, who owned
    Munz Northern out of Nome for many years, had bumper stickers that said
    “Fly the Arctic before it’s paved”. Don’t know if Dana knew him; he died last year
    here in WA state.


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