The Whale and the Cupcake

Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska

By (author): Julia O'Malley
Foreword by: Kim Severson
ISBN 9781771513319
Softcover | Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Book Dimensions: 6.5 in x 9 in
176 Pages

About the Book

A unique and fascinating cookbook that examines the relationships between food, culture, and place in Alaska.

From fish and fiddleheads to salmonberries and Spam, Alaskan cuisine spans the two extremes of locally abundant wild foods and shelf-stable ingredients produced thousands of miles away. As immigration shapes Anchorage into one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, Alaska’s changing food culture continues to reflect the tension between self-reliance and longing for distant places or faraway homes. Alaska Native communities express their cultural resilience in gathering, processing, and sharing wild food; these seasonal food practices resonate with all Alaskans who come together to fish and stock their refrigerators in preparation for the long winter. In warm home kitchens and remote cafés, Alaskan food brings people together, creating community and excitement in canning salmon, slicing muktuk, and savoring fresh berry pies.

This collection features interviews, photographs, and recipes by James Beard Award–winning journalist and third-generation Alaskan Julia O’Malley. Touching on issues of subsistence, climate change, cultural mixing and remixing, innovation, interdependence, and community, The Whale and the Cupcake reveals how Alaskans connect with the land and each other through food.

About the Author(s)

Julia O’Malley is an Anchorage-based food journalist, writing teacher, and editor-at-large at the Anchorage Daily News. She was the Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage from 2015 to 2017. She has written about food, climate, and culture for the Guardian, Eater, National Geographic, High Country News, and the New York Times, among other publications. She won a 2018 James Beard Award in the foodways category.

Kim Severson is a Pulitzer Prize–winning food correspondent for the New York Times. Earlier she served as news and features editor and reporter at the Anchorage Daily News. A four-time James Beard Award recipient for food writing, she is the author of four books, including Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life.


“Julia O’Malley’s fascinating The Whale and the Cupcake emphasizes the respectful, adaptive qualities that make Alaskan cuisine unique . . . [it’s] all about preservation, creativity, and surviving harsh landscapes . . . a thoughtful and enticing culinary text.” —Foreword Reviews

“Self-reliance, interconnectedness and respect are buzz words that permeate this cookbook, along with foods as metaphor for place, sharing, and memory. O’Malley’s uber-tested home recipes and vivid texts testify that living in a state with economic and transportation limitations, cultural diversity and now Climate Change, all pose culinary challenges, but can be creatively sidestepped. . . . intimate chapters overflow with charm and each could easily morph into future cookbooks.” —The Frontiersman