At the Last Frontier an invitation to a backyard BBQ is an invitation to a potluck or vice versa. In other words, the guest is supposed to bring a family size dish or drinks for a group of five for an evening. If the dish is non-vegan, a friend killed what you eat. There is no dress code as Mother nature dictates what you can wear. Whren the potluck is in the evening, the look is more or less the same pre-, in and after the mosquitoe season.
- Backyard BBQs Are a Potluck in Alaska
- What’s on the Table and Grill at an Alaska Potluck
- Game Meat Is Not for Sale
- Alaska Grown Fruits and Vegetables
- How to Recognize a New Alaskan
- What to Wear to an Akaska Potluck
- Stylish Monday July Backyard BBQ
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Backyard BBQs Are a Potluck in Alaska
In Alaska, invitations to backyard BBQs are invitations to a potluck party. The backyard BBQ season starts in mid March and ends with the first real cold snap (temperatures below -20F or -28.9oC). No matter what the weather is like, the party will launch. At temperatures above the freezing point or when it rains , the party will be outside under a heater or tent roof. On the contrary, at temperatures below the freezing point, it’s just the host or home owner who stands in Sorels, a Carhartt wool lumper jacket and Alaska jeans at the grill. The jeans is a 16 oz weight fabric, typically with a plaid flanel lining. The grill master goes outside just to turn the fish, meat, sausages, vegetables, potatoes or whatever is on the grill around once in a while, while the other guests and family members stay inside the house. Thus, under these conditions, forget about the best way to dress for a BBQ with friends. It’s neither a dinner party, nor a backayard BBQ, it’s a potluck.
What’s on the Table at an Alaska Potluck
The smell of moose, caribou, halibut and smoked or grilled salmon is in the air at every potluck in Interior Alaska. It mixes with the great scents of raspberry, cranberry and/or blueberry pie of self collected berries or rhubarb pie. Add Alaska grown cabbage, carrots, young spruce tips, turnips, mushrooms potatoes and Alaska weeds you can eat and you have the full collection of Alaska food on the table.
The young spruce tips are the base of a sort of spicy salsa. The turnips, potatoes and carrots go on the grill. The cabbage is turned into cole sla. Dandelion salad or bake anyone?
Who doesn’t have a yard and who isn’t fishing, hunting or berry picking, brings drinks. These can be from the liquor store. However, the favorites at potlucks are home-brewed beer and the homemade rhurbar or berry wines, or even snaps and vodka. There may be cookies or fudge when kids are among the attendees of the backyard BBQ guests.
Game Meat Is not for Sale
You can’t buy moose, or caribou in Alaska. Alaska law forbids to sell gamr. Thus, when you want to eat it you have to host a potluck. One of your friends for sure will bring a dish of moose or caribou stew or even a raw piece for the grill. Alternatively, you may trade your garden’s or fishing bounty with game from your hunting friends.
Actually, I never ate caribou, or moose despite I was at many potlucks with huge dishes of these treats. My husband tells me, they taste great. I just don’t like the idea of eating something that was killed by a friend. At potlucks, I stick to the collectibles, dishes with berries and rhubarb, Alaska edible mushrooms or the spruce dip salsa.
I love berries, but I am too afraid to collect them myself because of the competitors – bears.
Yes, I admit it is ridiculous. One needs a lot of luck to see a bear, and it is even less likely that a bear mauls you. However, I know a person who had that fate and was lucky to survive the mauling, which is even more less likely.
Alaska Grown Fruits and Vegetables
Rhubarb, cabbage, potatoes, turnips, and carrots grow well under the midnight Sun. Everything else is a matter of luck. Either it is too dry and hot for lettuce or too wet and cold (see this post on what Alaskans grow in their yards for more information). Since getting fresh vegetables in Alaska is difficult, Alaska (self) grown vegetables are welcome at every potluck.
If there are potatoe chips they are home-made in a kettle. Some of them are even made from black potatoes (my favorites).
How to Recognize a New Alaskan
Everybody knows that a guest is new to Alaska, when the guest brings a tray of tropical fruits, a potatoe or noodle salad, i.e. something that they did not grow or kill. Alaska, it’s a whole different world. Another indice of new Alaskans is that they won’t come with a pair of high booties like Xtra-tuffs, combat or hiking boots and a hoodie or at least a baseball hat under which you could push a scarf for neck protection.
You ask why you would need these carry-ons?
After 7 pm, the mosquitoes come out for dinner. Thus, sitting in a circle munching food makes you the buffet for them unless you wear clothing that makes it impossible for these little blod suckers to drill thru. Read more about the what to expect with respect to mosquitoes in Fairbanks.
Mosquito repellent is just an appetizer for them and not every host will burn mosquitoe sticks because of the stink and their health adverse emission of particulate matter of 2.5 micrometer or less in diameter.
What to Wear to an Alaska Potluck
If the backyard BBQ is just a family BBQ, they wouldn’t wear the typical stunning look Anericans wear at a family BBQ. People in Interior Alaska have a weird relationship with their PJs.
At temperatures above freezing, but below 50F (10oC), people in Interior Alaska wear jeans with lining or jeans with long Johns underneath to feel comfortable sitting outside on the deck. A shirt and wool sweater or wool shirt with (down) vest is the standard top coverage. People namely adapt to the conditions of their environments. You can best protect your ankles from mosquitoe bites with footwear that goes over the jeans or reaches under the hem of your jeans’ legs.
Interior Alaskans consider temperatures above 50F (10oC) as “warm” when it is dry. Then a tightly woven shirt and summer jeans or pants are a Do. In the afternoon, there is little need for protection from mosquitoes. At that time, robins and dragon flies are taking care of them by eating them. Therefore, sandals without socks like in my outfit in this post are fine. However, later in the evening, boots are a Must when you don’t want to host these 0.79 inch (2 cm) large insects for dinner.
Stylish Monday July Backyard BBQ
Welcome to the Stylish Monday July linkup party. The theme of this month’s linky are backyard BBQ outfits. Join the party and visit the posts of my stylish blogging friends. See what they wear to a backyard BBQ in their respective corners of the World.
What do you wear to a backyard family BBQs or backyard BBQ invitation? Which kind of food would you never eat at a potluck? Let me know, I am curious.
Focus Alaska is a series here on High Latitude Style featuring Alaska curiosa, lifestyle, wildlife, street style, weather, and insider travel tips.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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