Alaskans eat: wild salmon, fresh berries, canned milk, Pilot Bread, cake mix, seal meatballs, pho, Jello, muktuk, spam musubi, pancit…

Image by Brian Kimmel, for the Anchorage Museum’s What Why How We Eat exhibition, open through Jan 12, 2020. Julia O’Malley’s new book, “The Whale & the Cupcake,” a collaboration with the museum’s exhibit, was published by University of Washington Press.

It’s daunting to think how far back I go with Julia O’Malley. Think her high school years. Think her column in the feature section that I edited for the Anchorage Daily News. It was called “Tales of an Ordinary High School Girl,” lucid and fresh musings from the hallways at East High.

But that was just the beginning of O’Malley’s tenure at the ADN. She was the founding youth editor for Perfect World, a popular graphic weekly teen-written section, just before she fled to college. After stints at other jobs and other Alaska newspapers, she was back at ADN as a reporter and eventually a popular local columnist, and then an editor. Along came marriage and two sons. She took time off, but quickly gravitated to freelance work for The Guardian, The New York Times, Eater, Edible Alaska and others. And now she’s back, with a book.

Kim Severson, who wrote the forward for O’Malley’s new book about how Alaskans eat, called “The Whale & the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing & Community in Alaska,” was at ADN too, back in the day. Kim was a budding food writer, 8 entertainment magazine editor and metro reporter before landing at The New York Times. The old newsroom connections go deep.

But today’s show is about O’Malley’s new book, in collaboration with Anchorage Museum’s local foods exhibit, What Why How We Eat (open only through Jan. 12, 2020). The two go hand in glove, featuring similar themes of subsistence hunting and gathering, life-sustaining kitchen pantries designed to supplement limited fresh foods, the longing for flavors and textures that take us back to other places and other times, and the creative challenge of leaning in to months of winter austerity in the Alaska kitchen. But as O’Malley documents, we’ve managed to get by quite well, thanks to homegrown ingenuity and an amazing influx of rich immigrant cuisines. Where and how these threads intersect is the substance of her book.

There are surprises here: who knew store-bought cake mixes could become an economic boon for rural entrepreneurs, and the source of countless school-multipurpose-room fundraisers. Or that bubbly canned soda could replace missing fresh ingredients in a box cake.

Or how hydroponics and a longer growing season (thanks to climate change) have influenced what’s available at local restaurants and food outlets.

We have two other panelists today: Anna Sattler, an Alaska Native of Yupik heritage, featured in the museum exhibit and in the book, celebrating Alaska Native soul food. She is a chef and the creator of Anna’s Alaska, Off the Eaten Path, sharing Alaska Native cuisine on You Tube. In addition, we have Francesca DuBrock, chief curator at the Anchorage Museum, here to talk about structuring the food exhibit and collaborating on the book.

If you’ve seen the exhibit and read the book, let us know how it reflects your own Alaska eating experiences. And even if you haven’t, if you’re living and eating in Alaska, you’re qualified to participate in this discussion. So join us!

HOST: Kathleen McCoy


  • Julia O’Malley, author and journalist
  • Anna Sattler, chef and creator, Off the Eaten Path
  • Francesca DuBrock, artist and chief curator, Anchorage Museum



  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air
  • LIVE: Monday, January 6, 2019 at 2:00 p.m
  • RE-AIR: Monday, January 6, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019
Next articlePolar bear protections delayed oil exploration in the Arctic Refuge. A new study shows how companies can still move forward.