Vegan experience in Greenland

“Recently, I have been working in the Upernavik Nature Reserve in northwest Greenland, where I will spend the next month and a half,” says Rebecca Barfoot, “In a country where the polar bear is a national dish, and its skin often decorates the house from the outside.

Before leaving for Greenland, people often asked what I, an avid vegan, would eat there. Like most of the northern regions of the planet, this distant and cold land feeds on meat and seafood. Since I have completely disengaged myself from eating any animal food for more than 20 years, the issue of nutrition for a long trip to Greenland worried me to a certain extent. The prospect did not seem bright: either starve in search of vegetables, or … return to meat.

Anyway, I didn’t panic at all. I was driven by passion for the project in Upernavik, I stubbornly went to work in it, despite the food situation. I knew that I could adapt to the situation in different ways.

To my surprise, there is practically no hunting in Upernavik. In fact: the old methods of survival in this small Arctic city are becoming a thing of the past due to the melting of the sea glaciers and the increased influence of Europe. The number of fish and marine mammals has decreased significantly, and climate change has had its impact on hunting and the availability of prey.

Small markets exist in most localities, although the choices for the hardcore vegan are quite limited. What do I bring home from the store? Typically a can of chickpeas or navy beans, a small loaf of rye bread, perhaps cabbages or bananas if a food ship has arrived. In my “basket” there may also be jam, pickles, pickled beets.

Everything here is very expensive, especially such luxury as vegan food. The currency is unstable, all products are imported from Denmark. The supermarkets are full of cookies, sweet sodas and sweets – please. Oh yes, and meat 🙂 If you want to cook a seal or a whale (God forbid), frozen or vacuum-packed are available along with more familiar types of fish, sausages, chicken and whatever.

When I came here, I promised to be honest with myself: if I feel like I want fish, I eat it (just like everything else). However, after many years on a plant-based diet, I did not have the slightest desire. And although I was almost (!) ready to reconsider my view of food during my stay here, this has not yet happened.

I also have to admit the fact that I came here with 7 kilograms of my products, which, I must say, is not enough for 40 days. I brought mung beans, which I like to eat sprouted (I only ate them for a month!). Also, I brought almonds and flaxseeds, some dehydrated greens, dates, quinoa and stuff like that. I would definitely have taken more with me if it were not for the luggage limit (Air Greenland allows 20 kg of luggage).

In short, I’m still a vegan. Of course, a breakdown is felt, but you can live! Yes, sometimes I dream about food at night, even a little craving for my favorite foods – tofu, avocado, hemp seeds, corn tortillas with salsa, fruit smoothies and fresh greens, tomatoes.

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