Chebotaeva N.A. Our Neighbours: the Forest Nenets. Traditional Nourishment// Science. First Hand – 2006. – №3(8). – P. 70-71// Science. First Hand – 2006. –Special Issue. – P. 6-7.

The basic diet of the Forest Nenets consists of reindeer meat, fish, and game. The vitamin С contained in raw meat, reindeer blood, and fish-oil not only prevents them from catching diseases but also makes them more resistant to cold. The reindeer fat, blood, liver, heart, and kidneys are also a source of vitamins and minerals.

Reindeer meat is winter fare. The Nenets almost never eat the riding-reindeer meat, because it is sinewy and con­tains little fat. They do not eat meat of ill reindeers either, especially if the cause of the illness remains unknown. As the Forest Nenets did not know salt, meat and fish were not salted but dried or smoked. The best delicacy for the Forest Nenets is the meat of a reindeer which has just been killed. They eat raw meat right next to the carcass and wash it down with reindeer blood, which raises hemoglobin. The marrow from the cortical bones of extremities is also eaten raw right there, or frozen – later.

In summer the basic food is fish and game. Meat of wild geese and ducks is quite nutritious. The best piece is geese thigh. Women are forbidden to eat the part of a bird that contains the heart and lungs because, according to the be­lief, it might bring a disease to them. If there is a lot of game, they smoke it and keep for a longer time. They also collect and eat bird eggs. The Forest Nenets follow the strict rule: they eat only eggs of large birds, leaving a couple of eggs in the nest, so as not to decrease the amount of game dur­ing the autumn hunting season. In the autumn, they hunt wood-grouse and black-grouse.

Many authors claim that eating fish and fish products is one of the reasons why northern people are calm and friendly. It is proved that vitamin D and unsaturated fatty acids contained in fish oil directly influence a person's mood, and their lack can lead to depression. Fish oil also contains physiologically important microelements: iron, manganese, chrome, iodine, copper, molybdenum, nickel, and cobalt.

Fresh fish eaten abundantly is valued as a means for strengthening the body. The Forest Nenets also dry and smoke fish, and mill it into fish powder. In winter, the best dainty is stroganina, fine shavings made from frozen fish or reindeer meat. They eat it with their hands and dip it into salt or reindeer blood.

Fresh-killed fish fillet is used to prepare sogudai. The back and belly parts are the most tender and delicious. Bellies of whitefish, believed to be medicinal for digestive system disorders, are given to seriously ill and old people, children, and women before giving birth.

The Forest Nenets eat ide, sturgeon, whitefish, white salmon, pike, and burbot. The latter is eaten only boiled. They believe it to be not quite pure for it sucks other inhabitants of rivers and lakes that died in the nets, thus touching the world of the dead.

The pike occupies a special place. Some clans of the Forest Nenets think it is sacred. A legend told by the For­est Nenets Solu Veisovich Pyak says: Once the brothers of the Pyak clan took their brother Tachu fishing. They caught a lot of fish, and there was a small pike, hardly longer than a finger. Tachu was very happy. He took it in his hands, the fish twitched and nearly fell, but Tachu caught it. The grown -ups began laughing at him and joking, "Tachu, put it in your mouth"-. Without hesitation Tachu put it in his mouth. The fish slipped down in the throat.

In the morning Tachu woke up, touched his belly and said, "Mommy, the fish is moving inside me." Tachu was growing, and so was the fish in his stomach. When it grew very big, Tachu died. The grown-ups say, "The pike is no toy but a sacred fish. You should not joke about it."

In some clans only men scale and cook the pike. Women are forbidden to cut and eat this fish. They believe that if a pregnant woman cuts a pike, an evil spirit might come into her womb. Women are also forbidden to eat raw sturgeon, and at a certain time of their period they cannot eat the cooked one either. There are more taboos for the Forest Nenets; for example, they cannot put live fish into boiling water.

The newborns' basic food is their mothers' milk. The Forest Nenets nurse for a long time, sometimes up to five years. When the children grow a little, they begin to eat the same food as the adults. They are given the best bits. When the Nenets cut a reindeer, they always give the kidneys to the little ones, for they are tender, and the children eat them with pleasure. Favorite dishes of the For­est Nenets' children are fish fried on stick; boiled caviar with fresh cowberries; stroganina; hot cakes from a mixture of flour and reindeer blood; and, above all, baked squirrel stomach.