Wednesday, 5 September 2012


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
Mi'kmaq life.
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
the Creator.

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)


  1. Thank you "Lobster" and Uncle for all the wonderful information on Eels. I've never eaten eel, and am not fond of lobster, even though my husband loves it. I would love to know more about the traditional medicines you make from the Eel.

  2. Dear Jagej & Uncle:

    Thank you both so much for the reminders to keep asking questions, particularly as we grow older, so we may continue to learn new things! It was a fascinating trek to a world I have only heard a little bit about. I, too, hope you are able to bring us more stories in the future.

    All the best,
    Santa Barbara, California

  3. This is so cool! I saw that the post was talking about Mi'kmaq people, and I thought, "We have a big Mi'kmaq population in Nova Scotia!" (where I'm from - I live in the capitol city of Halifax). So cool to see that it is in fact people from Nova Scotia showcasing their local food worldwide!!

  4. You and your uncle are doing a wonderful job, and I've learned a lot! I had no idea that eels were so important spiritually and nutritionally. Thank you so much for sharing your culture with us, and your meals look fantastic

  5. Very nice post again, Jagej. And again the meal looks very tasty. I'd have no problem at all living by a diet consisting of salmon, moose and lobster + some vegetables ;)
    Hope Your schooldinners turn out at least a bit as healthy as the meals You've already shown to us.

    And reading what Jagej's Uncle wrote about eels made me think of the time when I was trained how to cook and the eels I had to prepare then. We got them still living, so before we could cook them, we had to kill and skin them - not an easy tast, with an eel about as thick and long as your arm ^^
    And we had to be quite carefull when we removed the intestines, cause if the gallbladder of the eel is damaged, it's fluids would ruin the whole eel..
    Usually the skinned eel was cut into bits about 3" long, then fried and served with a creamy fish sauce with herbs - Dill and Parsley - and potatoes.
    We had no use for the eelskin, but considering hough tough but also flexible it was, using it for the things mentioned is a perfect example of using all resources available.


  6. Jagej said: "Uncle and I had only
    planned for three days of Mi'kmaq lunches but we could have done more."

    Find out from your uncle of some other family member how to start your own blog. Get VEG to give you a little publicity and you never know. You might get a lot of followers, too. Even if it only goes as far out as family and friends you will lean a lot and I'm sure they will, too.

    Good luck!

  7. Jagej and Uncle,

    I am immensely proud of your posts that have captured such a vibrant and fascinating look at the Mi'kmaq and other Aboriginal groups on Turtle Island. You remind us all that we are not above any animal, that we live in harmony with our environment and we need to be thankful for all the food and goods that we make from them.

    It is such a complicated thing to have so many treaties and laws that govern your relationship with the land and your food supply. Before Europeans arrived your people lived in harmony with the animals and plants, taking only what you needed and giving thanks. I hope that you can carry on your ways into the future and keep your culture strong for your children. Jagej is very lucky to have such guidance.

    If only everyone ate locally and in harmony with the planet, we would have so much less disease and such a healthier planet.

    I want to thank VEG and her family for having you as guest bloggers, it has been magnificently refreshing for all of us to read.

    Lisa Ann
    Richmond Hill, Ontario CANADA

  8. I've really enjoyed your posts this week. They are very informative and I especially love the traditions around hunting and gathering food.

    Todays lunch looks fantastic ! I eat a little bit of seafood but no meat/poultry so I'd enjoy todays lunch much more than yesterdays :) Although those blueberries looked really good.

    Thank you both so much for sharing.

  9. Magen is so lucky that he gets lobster! I only get burgers and pizza! Is his school a private school?

  10. I love seafood, too. And eels. In Japanese cooking, eels are called "unagi." We eat them on top of rice with some sauce and it's yummy.

  11. Jagej, thank you for teaching us so many wonderful things about the Mi'kmaq people and your traditions.

    The Mi'kmaq people are not the only population group with increased amounts of illnesses such as diabetes and heart problems as a result of their more "modern" diets.

    Having said that, I don't think you needed to be downgrading your meals on the health scale because of natural sugars in things like fruits. Even a small amount of refined sugar, such as to make your lemonade.

    Here's the thing, Jagej:

    All foods eventually break down into three component parts: carbohydrates, proteins and, fats. Sugar is a carbohydrate. Or, perhaps more accurately, all carbohydrates break down in our bodies into sugar. And, from that standpoint, "sugar is sugar." Our bodies don't really care if it's sugar from a banana, a blueberry or sugar from the sugar bowl! :)

    The biggest difference is that fruits and vegetables also contain more good stuff our bodies need (like other vitamins including antioxidants, and fiber). Whereas straight sugar from the sugar bowl contains nothing but pure sugar.

    So here's how it goes: Okay, carbohydrates break down into sugar, and sugar is "bad" for you, so we'd better not eat any more carbohydrates, right? We'll just eat fats and proteins.

    But ounce for ounce (or gram for gram), fats contain a bit more than twice the calories that carbohydrates and proteins do. So you will gain weight if you eat lots of fats. And we know that certain kinds of fats cause problems in our blood and can make you have heart disease. So we better not eat any fats either, right? That just leaves us with protein.

    And about the only "pure protein" food that doesn't contain any fats or carbohydrates is egg whites. So we'll just live on egg whites, okay? Except that too much protein in your diet can seriously strain your kidneys. We need our kidneys working properly to remove the waste products from our blood.

    Which means we shouldn't eat anything! But, if we do that, we'll die of starvation. Hmmmm, what to do???

    Truth is that there are no foods that are "bad" or "good." Some are better than others. Some we need to use more moderation in eating than others. But we need all three: carbohydrates, fats and proteins, to be healthy.

    When we run into trouble is when we start eating too much of one particular thing. Too much sugar. Or too much fat. Or too much protein. This is why we want to eat a "balanced" diet.

    I would rate all of your meals you've shared with us as 10/10 on the healthy scale. Don't assume that just because yogurt has a bit of fat in it, that it's unhealthy. Or that since fruit has sugars in it, it's unhealthy.

    1. Great post, Jaylah...
      I just want to add something to it: Though sugar itself isn't "bad", the problem with most industrially processed foods is, that they contain a lot of hidden sugar. Because a while ago everybody was told that fats are bad - which they aren't, if consumed in the right amounts - everybody wants to eat low-fat options of anything. But there's a big problem with that. Low-fat usually means less taste, too, because fat is a natural taste enhancer. Just imagine a real good steak - it tastes a lot better if there's fat within the meat and the reason why those japanese Kobe beef steaks are so good is because there's all those little pieces of fat within the meat.

      So if you remove the fats from something, you have to add something to enhance the taste again. And most often that is done by adding sugar (in one form or another). And not only in foodstuff which would be expected to contain sugar. You might better take a closer look at what you eat and - as has been done on this blog already - assess the amount of sugar in your meal by putting up the same weight of sugarcubes besides it.
      And don't forget that starch - contained in bread, potatoes and many vegetables - is only a special kind of sugar when you do your maths..

      Oh, and there are some scientists that even think of sugar as a kind of drug comparable to alcohol or tobacco.

    2. I wasn't aware that bananas or blueberries were "industrially processed foods."

  12. Jagej, Uncle & Msit No'kmaq, gebmidèdmaqan.


  13. Did I write they are? They usually aren't. Unless, of course, You mean the dried versions of fruits and berries - banana chips for example - in which the amount of sugar really is a lot greater than in fresh fruits / berries of the same weight. 'Comes from taking out the water, Y'know..

  14. What a lovely looking meal - and so healthy and fresh. It is good to see such wholesome food being served at home. I rarely eat processed food of any kind (for about the last 10 years) and feel so much better for it - it always amazes me when pushing my trolley around the supermarket to see how much over-refined, high-carb, high-sugar packaged goods are in other people's trolleys (I used to be the same, but I saw 'the light').