Walking back to camp with a feed of Ptarmigan this past February in Labrador…
We’re moving into our 3rd week of the expedition. Bear and I lick our lips because we know it’s fresh meat. An important supplement to the high-calorie rations that we carry on these long grueling winter trips when the cold eats away at the body. But also a welcomed change from my carried meat options of bacon, salt pork and jerky. In fact, I go ahead and fire some fatty salt pork and butter into the pot because the bird, though high in valuable protein, is lean. And when you are submerged in the frigid subarctic for 43 days you need fat and lots of it…it’s the most caloric dense food on the go..add a bit of rice and flour to thicken and it’s golden. Now we’re about to turn half savage, have a hard time remembering our manners, and lick our fingers and paws in between juicy mouthfuls. Bear enjoys hers raw and frozen. After I’ve sucked mine dry she waits patiently enough for the feed of bones. It’s all good stuff! For man, woman or dog!
Locally known as white Partridge, these Ptarmigan are the Grouse of the North. They were and still are a survival food of northern wilderness areas for indigenous peoples, trappers, explorers, adventurers and whoever else goes there. Labradorians I know have “Partridge” on their weekly grocery list; they are sought after!
Inland, where I was, they are often the only reliable food in a desolate winter terrain. Especially when it’s a bad year for rabbits and the caribou have not yet come. They have saved a few lives over the years and were plentiful this winter so we indulged. Partridge stew was a mainstay!