Reality TV Hits Home

It’s not all wild salmon and moose

Arthur T. LaBar/Flickr
Arthur T. LaBar/Flickr


A reality TV star has been checking my daughter’s head for lice. She’s the school nurse, and there’s an outbreak. Someone said it started in the Girl Scouts. The nurse is one of the lead characters on a survivalist show that must be quite convincing because last summer, one of the tour guides leading cruise ship passengers around town told me that when her tour bus passed by the Safeway on its way to the museum, the passengers were confused. You have Safeway here? they asked. But what about needing to get that moose so you all don’t starve in the winter?

No worries. There are Chilean blueberries and Go-Gurts in our Safeway, as well as greasy Chinese food sitting under heat lamps near the cake counter.

I no longer keep track, but I think about half a dozen reality TV shows have some connection to Homer. Their crews descend on our town each summer. You can spot them by the way they gather at outdoor tables at the bakery we all love by the beach and talk only to each other. They’re mostly young men. They all wear fashionable jeans.

We’ve also run into them playing croquet behind one of the bars a few miles out of town and having a planning session in the best local lunch spot, whipping up reasons why the show’s plot line depended on helicoptering across Cook Inlet to hunt. Oh, what adventures those crews get to tag along on.

Truth is, on most days, life here is similar to life elsewhere in the country. We’re not fighting for survival. Necessity has little to do with the fervency with which we fill our freezer with salmon or coax vegetables out of our cold soil. In the end, after the cost to fill up the truck with fuel multiple times to get to the salmon fishing spot, after the money paid to have it fileted and vacuum-sealed (we’ve learned that fileting salmon just once a year makes us mediocre fish cutters at best, so now we pay the experts), it probably would be cheaper to eat lentil soup all winter, or frozen pizzas. It seems as though frozen foods that are tan in color are the cheapest way to pack calories into a limited budget.

But just the same, I spent a few hours in September putting up my back-yard rhubarb, which is always in overproduction. It’s the first plant to push through the garden soil each spring, and I imagined how happy the homesteaders must have been when they saw those bulging red heads emerge just after the snow thawed. What a welcome sight—those fruity stalks—after a winter of potatoes and canned meat. In addition, rhubarb is a good source of vitamin C, an important nutrient for warding off scurvy. The results of my home preservation efforts were four Mason jars of bright pink, ginger-infused cocktail mixer.

I might be somewhat complicit in this survivalist drama. But I can’t deny how genuinely thrilled I was when our neighbor rang the doorbell in early September and handed me 15 pounds of moose meat packed in butcher paper from an animal he’d shot that morning. The stroganoff I made out of it the other night—with sour cream, mushrooms, and egg noodles I bought at Safeway—was really delicious.

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Miranda Weiss is a science and nature writer. The author of Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska, she also wrote the Northern Lights blog for our website.


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