Alaska Fish Broth | Our story
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Our story

Daiva says:


“I am from Lithuania, which is a small country on the Baltic Sea, and which at that time was enveloped into the Soviet system.  I remember that my Grandfather would ensconce himself into a small room in the attic and listen to Radio Free America.  I would sometimes listen too, at first surreptitiously,  but later he would allow me, and even encourage me to get to America if I could.  It was not so easy; we were not allowed to leave.


My chance came in 1991 when Lithuania broke with the Soviets.  For the first time in fifty years, Lithuanians were allowed to travel, and I went to Florida.  I was 29.  I learned English and worked in a bar.


In my mind everything American was best, and I accepted without question the official dietary advise that espoused low fats, fake fats, no salt, no egg yolks, shelf life packaged foods, etc.  But the new food wasn’t working for me; on one trip back to visit family in Lithuania, I visited a doctor for a checkup.  After a few quick glances he told me that if I didn’t change how I was living, “I wouldn’t need a doctor.”  My thyroid was protruding as a huge lump on my neck.  I resolved to learn about nutrition, and to renature my diet.


It was about then that a series of hurricanes swept Florida, the economy crashed, and I lost my job.  However, through an friend, I was offered a job in a nice hotel in Las Vegas.  That’s where I met David.  David was half Lithuanian, who had never heard a word of Lithuanian spoken.  David was from Alaska, and was in Las Vegas, at first for law school, and later as a bankruptcy attorney, but each summer he would go back to his remote Alaskan salmon fishing site which was on Kalgin Island, in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.




David invited me to go with him to Alaska for six weeks. I didn’t know what to expect, but the mortgage collapse had started, and the club where I had been working as a bartender closed, so I went.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; mountains rising out of the ocean and disappearing into the clouds, gorgeous beaches, lush forests, extensive patches of wild berries where no one had ever picked, salmon, halibut, moose, eagles swooping down on the creek where David had a cabin, and pulling out large salmon, clams, snails, muscles, seaweeds, herbs, and tides that dropped 30 feet, exposing a mile of tidelands, and then a few hours later the water would be at the cabin.  I was overwhelmed,  there were natural foods laying around everywhere, surrounded by amazing beauty.  David was delighted that I was so enthralled.

One day we made a journey across Cook Inlet to the City of Kenai.  That had a public subsistence fishery going where people were allowed to catch dozens of salmon.  I was horrified at what I saw; they were throwing away the fish heads, spines, and even the caviar.  The beach was a gory slaughter.  In Lithuania, no one would throw away a good fish head without making soup, and when I tried to tell Lithuanians that Alaskans throw away the caviar, no one could believe me.  Its just not believable!  I saw very fat people tossing away fish heads, and I thought, you fools, your answer is literally in your own hands.  Then there was a young autistic child playing with the fish waste in the serf line, and I was struck; there is the people’s metaphysical error, and there is its consequence, visited on the innocent.  I chocked, I cried, I couldn’t breath.


That image remained with me, until I resolved to go to nutritional school to try to gain standing so that people would listen.  There are so many nutritional treasures here in Alaska, but people eat mainly artificial shelf live foods, and the publics health is not too good.  With my nutritional certificate, I started teaching classes about Alaska’s forgotten nutritional treasures, including broth making, but people mainly wanted to know if they could just buy it somewhere.  Can you believe it? I even taught how to make fish head broth at a tribal wellness center, where the young people didn’t realize the nutritional wisdom of their elders.  Lithuanians teaching Alaskan native how to make fish broth!  Unbelievable!  But it happened.  When I told my mother in Lithuania that I was earning money teaching people how to make broth, she was dumbstruck, her response was, “What, is  there someone in the world who doesn’t know how to make broth?  How do they live?”

Finally, one day, David said, “We can make broth commercially.”  I said, “How can we?”  David arranged to use a bit of space in a friend’s fish processing plant, and we McGwired up some fish broth.  It was all legitimate, but very creative, what we were able to do with hard work.  And it was not at all glamorous, standing at a table pulling out fish gills for hour after hour.  One FaceBook message to Wise Choice Market   and we were able to sell all the broth that we could make with our limited system.  Now our broth is sold and served in NYC, the broth capital of the world.

Although “Alaska Broth Company” is still very small, I can’t believe what we have been able to do, and I wonder what all might be possible”

David’s story:


“There I was, running a fishing lodge that I had built with my own hands on a remote Alaskan island, and also fishing commercially for salmon.  It was a great life, but I had been born in Alaska, and I had grown up fishing with my family.  I had a feeling that I was missing out on the larger world, so I enrolled myself in law school in Las Vegas; and so I went from one extreme to the other.


In Vegas, I was like a fish in very shallow water, but I flopped and splashed my way through law school and graduated in the top quarter on my class.  And against my bitter protestations my classmates drafted me to speak for them at the commencement ceremony.  After law school, I opened a bankruptcy practice, in an office on 6th Street, that was called “Bankster Busters.”  It was just after the bank bailouts and during the foreclosure crisis, and half the town was living in their houses under water and upside-down.   It was my job to dry them out and set them right side up.


The process usually involved trying to renegotiate the terms of the mortgage’s note, but it became apparent that the banks who were foreclosing did not own the note, and had no standing to negotiate anything.  Further, the real owner of the note, some trust for a mortgage backed security, was unascertainable from the records.  And moreover, cases were removed to federal courts where appointed judges were more interested in protecting banks than they were in observing long standing legal tradition.  There we delays that allowed clients to stay in houses that remained in limbo, but there wasn’t really any bankster busting going on.  What a massive fraud, and nobody was held accountable.




And during this struggle, I who had been fit and trim my whole life, caught a sideways profile of myself in a mirror, and I noticed that I had put on about a 100 lbs, and it wasn’t all muscle.  I had to admit to Daiva, that I was going to die from this life style long before I busted any banksters.  And we decided to shut down the practice and move back to Alaska where I still had a cabin on the beach of the remote island that was my previous home and a fishing boat.

Daiva and I resolved to renature our diets, and we collected seaweeds, herbs for teas, berries from the forest, salmon, halibut, moose, clams and muscles.  We grew a garden and fermented vegetables.  But the best thing form my recovery was a fish head broth that Daiva made.  I had been around fish my whole life, and had never done anything with the fish heads, but they were quickly becoming my favorite thing.   I could feel my body sigh with relief as I sipped my morning broth.  And the extra 100 lbs just vanished, skin rashes went away, and a dry eye condition resolved to complete comfort without eye drops.


We noticed that when the seals picked fish out of our nets, they didn’t take the whole fish, they usually just ate the heads.  Foxes, bears, eagles, and all other shorebirds regarded a fish in a similar manner; they favored the head, and the organs, and they disfavored the muscle meat.  They favored the parts that are rich in collagen protein, but the fillet, which is less than 2% collagen protein, they reject.  And it dawned on us that we were wasting most of the nutrients from a fish.  And it wasn’t only us who were wasting fish heads, spines, fins and trims, but the entire fishing industry has as its practice to view these parts as waste.


On one trip to town, Daiva saw a beach that was littered with fish heads and caviar, discarded by sport fishermen, who collected only the fillets.  She broke down into crying, because she was thinking about her family in Lithuania who would love to have any of those fish heads.  No one in Eastern Europe throws away a good fish head without making soup.  Then we saw an autistic child playing with discarded fish heads in the serf line, and it made me wonder.  All traditional societies value fish heads, and all fish eating animals value them too.  And I had regained my health sipping fish head broth.  We knew what we had to do; we had to inform the people of the value of fish heads and spines, we had to stop the waste, we had to bring the nutritional benefit to the people.


For me, it represented a project that was ethical from every angle.  It was good for people.  It was good for the oceans.  And it is right to use all parts of an animal that is killed for food.  After sliming around in the law, this was exactly what I needed.  And I will say that there is a power in doing something that you know is right, every time that we have needed something to continue, it has been made available just by asking.  Of course, there has been phenomenally hard work.  Daiva and I are the only ones who make the broth, from de-gilling fish heads to packaging to sales; we do it all.  We are Alaska Broth Company, and we proudly say that “we give good fish head.”