Meet Our Publishers: Mary Smith of Edible Alaska
We talked to Mary Smith, the publisher of edible Alaska, about the Arctic food scene, her favorite edible Alaska story, diversity, and more.
Before you started edible Alaska, what were you doing professionally?
My husband and I own a commercial freezer troller in Sitka, AK which we use to catch, process, and market king and coho salmon. This time of year we're focused on marketing and selling our catch (call me if you need 1,000 lbs of amazing wild king salmon).
What inspired you to start edible Alaska?
I've loved reading them for years, and when I worked in marketing I advertised in a couple of California editions, so I knew how loyal and passionate the Edible audience and community was. I was waiting patiently for someone to launch edible Alaska, knowing it would be an amazing magazine given the rich food culture of the state, and all the opportunities for fishing, hunting, and foraging that exist here, many of which are not found anywhere else in the U.S.. Alaska is also home to many talented and hardworking chefs who each have a unique approach to what it means to work here. It's not easy! Same goes for brewers, distillers, and other artisans that produce an excellent selection of food and drink...and don't get me started on our farmers and ranchers! The hardest working and innovative people you will ever meet. Suffice it to say we were beyond ready for an Edible! Then it dawned on me that given enough support I could publish it! Thanks to an amazing, ever-changing group of writers, photographers, artists, editors, advertisers and subscribers.
What has surprised you the most about Alaska's food culture?
I'm surprised that people are surprised that Alaska has a food culture. I think that's the most amazing thing -- people have an idea about Alaska, maybe based on television, that is way off base. We have a world class food scene here with amazing restaurants, retail, farms, ranches, fishing, and we have rich cultural roots as well. Hunting, fishing, gathering, and traditional ways of harvesting, preparing, and preserving food is part of what sustains diverse Native Alaskan communities across the state -- not just physically, but also spiritually. Alaska is also incredibly diverse. The Mountain View neighborhood in Anchorage is the most diverse neighborhood in all of America! You can imagine the opportunities to experience different cultures through food that presents.
If you could interview one person for your magazine, who would it be and why?
I'll go with an impossible option: someone who was fishing or hunting along Alaska's vast shoreline 300 years ago. I’d want to know what were they eating, how were they preparing it, a step-by-step of preservation techniques, and a glimpse at their songs, prayers, and stories.
Tell us one of your all-time favorite stories you've published in edible Alaska.
Our first issue was so amazing -- seeing the idea become reality -- so I am going to go with a story from that first issue. Miranda Weiss' essay Salmon Grown tells a story in a beautiful way. It's poetic and a gorgeous look at how Alaskans think about food.