• How The Devils Went Deaf: Ethnomycology, Cuisine, And Perception Of Landscape In The Russian North

      Yamin-Pasternak, Sveta; Schwitzer, Peter (2007)
      Arctic tundra is rich mushroom country and a number of high latitude fungi species can potentially be used as food. Different regions often play host to many of the same or similar mushroom varieties. Yet, people's attitudes toward the same mushrooms---and mushrooms in general---vary widely both in temporal and geographical senses. The given work presents a study in ethnomycology---a field of inquiry concerned with human beliefs and practices associated with mushrooms, carried out in the Bering Strait area of Chukotka, Russia. Once avoided by the Native people living on the Russian and American sides of the Bering Strait, wild mushrooms are now considered to be deliciously edible among the Yupiit and Chukchi of Chukotka. In addition to its dietary contribution, mushroom gathering is also valued as a social, spiritual, and recreational activity which cultivates particular relationships between the people and the land. Prior to the influences of the mushroom-loving Russian cuisine, Yupik people in Chukotka regarded mushrooms as "devil ears," while the Chukchi largely viewed them as reindeer food unfit for human consumption. As an ethnographic study of a single commodity, this thesis examines past and present meanings of mushrooms in Chukotka, exploring local beliefs, practices, and knowledge associated with their use. It shows that the transformations in Yupik and Chukchi ideas about mushrooms are deeply connected with multiple aspects of social change taking place in Chukotka during and after the Soviet period.