This feature is the first part of a series on holiday cooking by Joyce McCombs who wrote a food column for our sister publication, Delta Wind, for many years.

On a December night more than 60 years ago, a 28-year-old Japanese student touched down in Fairbanks, Alaska. He set down his suitcase as he stepped off the plane and looked northward, hoping to see the aurora borealis.

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“On winter mornings, just as the sun’s uncertain light slopes across the Tanana Flats, ravens fly over my log cabin on their daily commute to town. Perhaps, like me, they would prefer to remain here in the hills above Fairbanks, where temperatures are usually ten or twenty degrees warmer. But town is where the day’s work lies, where ravens and people earn their daily victuals. Dozens of the birds crest the ridges alone, in pairs, strung out in groups that punctuate the sky like ellipses. They sail over slopes covered with spare aspen and birch trees and descend on the city wedged between the frozen Tanana and Chena Rivers. Across other ridges, from other directions, hundreds of ravens are flying through the thin light to pick at the carcass of civilization.”

Many of you who follow me know that I love the holidays. This is my favorite time of the year — giving thanks and gathering with family and loved one at Thanksgiving, followed by the festive and ever-cheerful Christmas and New Year’s Day. It is a time to spend with family and share time and …

Ice that floats on far-north oceans has been dwindling the last few years. Scientists have described the shrinking of this solar reflector — once bigger than Russia and now taking up less space than Australia — as a breakdown of the world’s refrigerator.

Katie Kangas operates a bed-and-breakfast in Ruby, Alaska. On the morning of October 15, she turned to look out her picture window, toward the cabin next door. She was waiting for her client to switch the light on, at which point she would step out and deliver his breakfast.

Biologist Stacia Backensto has fooled a raven. When trying to recapture birds on Alaska’s North Slope during her graduate student days at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she wore a moustache and beard. She also strapped pillows to her waist.

In the fall of 1914, the talk in Seward covered everything from the Great War in Europe to which town would get the new government railroad. In 1915 Seward became the terminus of the Alaska Railroad, and life in our small town changed rapidly as thousands of newcomers began arriving in Alaska.

A few nights ago, stretched in a tent on the blue-gray gravel of the Lowe River floodplain, I woke to a series of sharp jolts. It felt like the earth was a giant halibut, and I was the fishing pole.

Ben Jones recently returned to the tundra site of a plane crash that in May took the life of the pilot, and left Jones bloodied and broken.

With fall approaching, our heating season is coming soon. Many Alaskans like the smell of burning wood and the type of heat they get from a wood stove. This time of year, they may think about the size of their wood pile, drying the wood, and the relative price of heating oil as a competitive…

While wandering middle Alaska this summer, I noticed orange spruce trees along the entire length of the Denali Highway, from Paxson to Cantwell. In what looked like a dendrological case of frostbite, tips of every branch were afflicted with something.

Early in his career, on a wet, windy, foggy night, Guy Tytgat checked into the loneliest hotel in the Aleutians. His room was four feet wide and five feet tall, made of fiberglass, and perched on the lip of a volcanic crater.

Right now, on the brushy tundra of northern Alaska, grizzly bears are gathering at quiet streams and rivers, attracted by the largest calorie reward they can find — spawning salmon.

High summer is here in middle Alaska. North of Fairbanks, in bright sunshine, alder flycatchers are perched in spruce tops, just arriving from Bolivia and Peru. A few steps away, accompanied by the smell of sulfur, dozens of carrion flies buzz on and above a moose carcass.

Jerry Lavarne did not use nets to catch sharks in Resurrection Bay, as the U.S. Fisheries Bureau suggested. He was clear about this in a feature article in the January 1920 issue of Pacific Fisherman: “At the present, line fishing method is the only one which presents itself as practicable f…

Glacier mice are soft green ovals, about as big as your hand. Each summer day, they creep an inch across the surface of some Alaska glaciers. They roam in groups, sometimes changing direction together like a herd of caribou.

It is a pleasant day for a walk in middle Alaska, with blue sky overhead, and people perhaps looking for something to do outside, with lots of space and sweet-scented summer air around them.

After the final steps of a long run in early March, Greg Finstad took his pulse rate. His heart was at 38 beats per minute. Perfect. The reindeer biologist and marathon runner was in top shape to run this year’s Boston Marathon.

By the fall of 1913 some of Otto Bergstrom’s friends in Seward were concerned. One of his periodic mishaps was due. These events were always good for a sympathetic chuckle, though his friends really liked the man and wished him no harm. But the mysterious anticipation of what might come next…

Every town has one, and in Seward’s early days it was Otto Bergstrom. If there was anyone in town who elicited “schadenfreude,” it was Otto. The German term “schadenfreude” is defined as “pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.” It wasn’t so much pleasure his fellow pio…

The recent discovery of the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan suggests the duck-billed creatures once stomped across the Bering Land Bridge. 

It was the first weekend in May, and Alaskans were getting out. Emboldened by words from the governor to get outside, or more likely their desires to escape the house, people were driving south on the Richardson Highway from Fairbanks.