SSoP Podcast Episode 14 — Alaska: Fresh-Caught Salmon, Cake Mix, and So Many Bears

SSoP Podcast Episode 14 — Alaska: Fresh-Caught Salmon, Cake Mix, and So Many Bears

Monday, 7 September, 2020

Alaska is the 49th and largest state in the union. It was derided as Seward’s Folly when the US Secretary of State bought the territory from Russia in 1867. But the joke was on critics: Decades later, both gold and oil were discovered in Alaska’s pristine wilderness. The call of adventure was too much for pioneering Americans to resist, and hardy men and women with an independent streak flocked north to settle the wild frontier.

When they arrived, they met the original hardy inhabitants: native peoples who’d been hunting, fishing, and gathering there since 10,000 BCE. Native tribes like the Athabaskans, Aleuts, Inuit, Yup’ik, Tlingit, and Haida had followed migrating animal herds across the land bridge that once connected Russia to Alaska.

But the most noteworthy residents might be the bears, wolves, moose, eagles, whales, otters, sea lions, puffins, seals, and more that populate the state parks and — in some cases — roam city streets, reminding everyone that Alaska is equal parts danger and beauty.

In this episode, we discuss the surprises of life in Alaska, then recommend books that transported us there, including a vivid memoir, two novels in which snow plays a starring role, a coming-of-age story set in the world of commercial fishing, and two books that showcase Alaskan cuisine.


Read the full transcript of Episode 14: Alaska.

The Raven's Gift

buy | read review

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name

buy | read review

The Whale and the Cupcake

buy | read review

The Snow Child

buy | read review

The Alaskan Laundry

buy | read review

other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

  • Kodiak bears can grow up to 1500 pounds (680kg) and 10 feet tall (3 meters). They’re big hunks o’ love.
  • Chugach State Park: This park is 500,000 acres of nature, butting right up against Anchorage. According to a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, it’s a ‘bear factory.’ It’s also ridiculously beautiful.
kayaker paddling on a lake in chugach state park in alaska
Photo courtest of Paxson Woelber/Unsplash
  • Don Rearden, author of The Raven’s Gift: The author’s personal blog shares stories of his daily life in Alaska.

  • Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child: talks about her novel and her life in Alaska:

  • Snow Child: The Musical: The book was adapted into a musical using traditional Alaskan instruments to make the music. The show debuted in Washington in April of 2018.


  • Julia O’Malley, author of The Whale and the Cupcake: The author’s blog is a treasure trove of recipes and food writing; she also teaches occasional classes on the craft of writing, memoir, and recipes.

  • ‘What Why How We Eat’ at the Anchorage Museum: The exhibit that inspired the book The Whale and the Cupcake is now closed, but you can learn more about it, and watch a short video, in this report from KTUU in Anchorage.

  • Muktuk: We were fortunate to try muktuk at our friends’ house in Alaska. Here’s more detail about its nutritional benefits.

pieces of whale blubber
Photo courtesy of Alan Levine/Flickr.



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