A sweet-sounding recipe to everyone’s taste
By Isabelle Dubois
Every year in August, when aqpiks (cloudberries) are just ripe, ready to be harvested, Kuujjuaq prepares its very own Aqpik Jam, a “berry” flavourful music festival held in the Nunavik region’s hub. It is a recipe that they have been perfecting for years, ever since their first batch in 1996, one that keeps getting better and better each time as it marinates.
The secret to this tasty dish is in its content. Kuujjuamiut go out of their way to pick the best ingredients, selecting the finest blend of Northern seeds for its Jam, with performers from all around Nunavik, Nunavut, Labrador and Greenland, sometimes NWT and Alaska. A hint of Southern spice is then added to the already talented mix, along with bands from various parts of Quebec and Canada, making it extra special for Inuit and other northerners in attendance.
Preheated to boreal summer temperatures, the much-awaited event starts with a traditional appetizer presented on a platter of talented young throat singers and drum dancers from the Kuujjuaq Youth Group. The main course then follows with an assortment of delightful aromas, from folksy accordion tunes and square dances to country blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll, with a dash of rap and heavy metal here and there, often accompanied by a mouthful of cool beat box and snazzy hip hop. The whole is served with hearty humour, topped off by zesty cheer from the crowd of 500 or so packed like sardines in Kuujjuaq’s auditorium at the Katittavik Town Hall.
But music is not all there is to the festival’s scrumptious recipe, which wouldn’t turn out the same without the fruit itself, one that grows bountiful in this part of Nunavik at that time of the year. Indeed, paying tribute to the yummy reddish-orange berry it is named after, the Aqpik Jam also celebrates the harvesting season with its customary berry-picking contest, thereby making sure there’s plenty of the main ingredient to go around.
The four-day gathering is also filled with outdoor activities and games, stirring even more treats into the pot. Sugarcoated with sand canoe races and tugs-of-war at the beach, as well as a golf tournament and targetshooting competition in the sandpit, makes for a fun-filled serving. Add to that, bingo games for lunch, combined with darts, cribbage and pool tournaments, and the mixture is almost complete.
It all comes together on the last day during a gargantuan potluck feast for everyone to get a ration of the savoury aqpik berry on a stomach full of country foods and some of the community’s best catering. And let’s not forget the cake contest for a dessert as sweet looking as it tastes. Brought to a boil, the festival’s optimum flavour explodes in the sky with a sizzling conclusion of fireworks, lighting up the night into the perfect icing on the cake.
But like any recipe, its success resides in the people who prepare it each year, seasoning it with tender love and care. And once one has had the chance to sample the result, it is obvious that Kuujjuamiut are real chefs when it comes to cooking up a festival as delicious as the Aqpik Jam.
For details on the upcoming 2013 edition of the Aqpik Jam Music Festival taking place August 12-15, contact the Northern Village of Kuujjuaq at 819-964-2943 or check out the event’s Facebook page.