Pjila'si from Mi'kmaqi.
Today I got to finally eat some jagej (lobster). I like all fish and
to me lobster is just another kind of fish. It is sweet and juicy.
Also a little chewier than other fish. I could eat it a lot. I like
speckled trout the best though.
Uncle and I have had a lot of fun the past few days visiting and
talking with Mi'kmaq Elders, hunters and fishermen. I have learned a
lot. Uncle says he has learned as well. It was a surprise that no one
had any traditional stories to tell about jagej. They are just another
fish food like gaspereau, mackerel, smelts and trout.
What we had really wanted was some eels to cook for a snack but there
were none to be found. Eels are prized even more than salmon in the
Mi'kmaq culture. They are seasonal and highly valued by Lnu for
ceremonial feasts, medicines and other special events. Because we
could not get any interesting stories about jagej I will tell you
later some things about ga't (eel) pronounced gaad.
Right now it is easy to get lobster so we settled for that.
Here is a picture of my whole lobster (cooked) and after it was
shelled for lunch.
Food-o-meter - 10/10 Liked everything again today.
Health rating - 8/10 Sugar in the banana and the lemonade.
Bites - about 53. I got interested in my food and forget to count a bite or two.
Courses - Main and dessert
Price - Lobster in Nova Scotia now is CDN$10/pound. My lobster was
just under 1/2 pound so estimate $4.00, banana $0.75, beans from the
kitchen garden and homemade lemonade $0.25. Total - about $5.50
allowing for garden expenses.
Pieces of hair - 0.
One thing we did learn is the Mi'kmaq used to store lobster in the
ground to use later.
Today lobster is a valuable commercial business for Mi'kmaq
individuals and First Nations communities. This happened after what is
known in Canada as the Marshall decision from the Supreme Court saying
aboriginal treaty rights permitted the catching and selling of fish
for a moderate livelihood. Following some months of conflict and
disagreement both native and non-native fishermen learned to work in
harmony. A certain amount of the native fish quota is set aside for
community use to feed individuals and Elders.
Jagej's uncle here.
The following bit is a combined effort. Jagej was struggling with some
of the writing so he asked me to help him. Sometimes the information
can become overwhelming for a young mind.
Eels are a global species with many varieties and in parts of the
world have a very high market value. In the United Kingdom prices for
eels can reach 700 pounds for a kilogram. In Spain it can be as high
as 1000 euros.
The value of eels in Mi'kmaqi is, even today, not driven by economics.
Value is directly connected to community life. It enhances social
function, is used medicinally and is highly regarded for spiritual
Today many young people are not as fond of eels as the older
generations but it is still a very integral and special part of
You are held in high regard as an individual if upon visiting a
Mi'kmaq home you are offered eel stew.
Due to their spiritual importance eels are sometimes requested as a
last meal to help ease the transition to the spirit world. Eating eels
relaxes and calms the spirit so resistance and fear is lessened during
the transition between the two worlds.
Eels are not caught for personal gain. The fishermen take pride in
sharing their catch with Elders and members of the community. A large
eel can feed several people. Catching eels is considered a gift from
Smaller eels are used for soups and stews. They are cleaned and
skinned before use. Soup and stew recipes vary depending on individual
taste and are prepared much as any stew or soup. One man related a
tale of experimenting with "sweet and sour stir fry" eels which he
said he enjoyed.
Baking eels are larger in size. They are gutted, unskinned with a salt
rub. The head is left on to use for hanging while blood is drained
from a cut in the tail and the eel continues hanging to dry. The heads
are later used in soups and stews, The skin remains on for cooking
(bake, barbeque or over a traditional open fire).
Following are links to two videos showing the harvesting and baking
(seasoned to taste). The videos are about eight minutes each. Some of
the participants speak in the Mi'kmaq language.
Video #1 -
Video #2 -
Some eels are skinned for other uses. The skins can be used for ties
and bindings. Boot and moccasins' soles are also made from the eel
skins. Skins are used for wrapping medicines and poultices. Skins
were used for wrapping sprained or broken bones, relieving joint pain
and making preventative medicines. Oils from larger eels was used for
making medicines, cooking other foods, helping with ear infections and
loosening ear wax.
Fishermen still do not fish for eels or other species at certain times
of the year, mostly respecting spawning cycles.
Mostly the eel is a source of food for the Mi'kmaq and is life-sustaining.
Jagej here again.
I have enjoyed learning and writing about some of my Native culture
this week and am now a bit sad that tomorrow I will be writing about
actual school lunches. I am sure the school lunches won't be as good
but hopefully they will be nutrious. I am excited to start my new
school and we will see what tomorrow brings. Uncle and I had only
planned for three days of Mi'kmaq lunches but we could have done more.
Maybe if Veg goes on vacation again she might invite me to write some
Don't forget to support Mary's Meals and Veg's blog to raise money for
kids who do not have as much as we do.
Wela'lin - Thank you for all your comments and support. This has been
fun! See you tomorrow.
Jagej (and uncle)