The Magic Salmon Soup Pot

Posted on February 7, 2012


The Magic Salmon Soup Maker, Anna Chukan

As I was skiing today I kept thinking about my Great-Grandmother, Anna Chukan. She loved us in a quiet and solid way that my family misses every day, yet we know that her love abides with us still. Whether I had just come in from playing, skiing or fishing, if she were not busying herself with something, as she often did, I would go to sit with her. She invariably acknowledged my fun or effort with an approving inhale and, “You smell like fresh air.” When my Great Grandma, also known as Umma, and Grandpa would come in to Anchorage in the winter to visit from Bristol Bay, oftentimes I would come in from playing and find Umma bent over picking bits and lint from the carpet and putting them into a little trash bin. She would look up, smile and say, “Just like picking berries.”

Umma would always have good food waiting for us when we would come back from fishing and as we sat down she would say to us, “Eat full.” One of the things she would make that was always profoundly pleasing was her fish soup. The ingredients were basic: good sized cubes of salmon with their skin still on, a few pieces of spaghetti broken into the pot along with a handful of rice grains, a few rings of onion and a little bit of salt. The broth was as clear as water with drops of fish oil resting on top and it didn’t seem like it would taste like much, but the flavor was amazing. The miracle of this soup was on the order of magnitude of the fable Stone Soup, but better. Better because we knew that this soup came from the unconditionally loving hands of our Umma and the salmon was from the ever-giving generosity of the Naknek River, our home stream.

For more about the miracle of wild salmon visit