STORY BY SANDRA S. SORIA PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRIAN C. GROBLESKI
The Kilchers are living the ultimate sustainable lifestyle. Stars of the Discovery Channel’s wildly popular show, “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” the couple, their two young children, and members of their extended clan homestead the old-fashioned way in Homer, a remote area of our exquisitely beautiful and ruggedly harsh 49th state. In a hot-off-the-presses new cookbook, “The Homestead Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from our Hearth to Yours” (Pam Krauss Books), the two have gathered their favorite family recipes, along with gardening, preserving, and foraging ideas. Even if chucking it all and moving to the wilds isn’t in your plans, you’ll find ways to free yourself from our mass-produced world to live a healthier, more soul-satisfying lifestyle.
We caught up Eve and Eivin on one chilly Alaskan morning to get the backstory on the book, the show, and their lives. We think you’ll find them both pretty darn heartwarming.
Q: Where would you live if you didn’t call Homer home?
EIVIN: I have traveled a lot…but I haven’t found anywhere that I’ve traveled where I can walk out my door and be instantly walking into the wilderness. In the U.S., it seems like, more and more, wild spaces are being surrounded by suburbs and growing cities.
Q: Confession time…do you ever crave fast food? Where would you have to go to get it?
EIVIN: I’ve been known to sneak fast food but don’t tell my wife! Whenever I need materials for a project I have to drive up the road to Kenai, sometimes Anchorage, and fast food is fast, you know? Usually, I’m on a mission to go buy several thousand pounds of steel for some giant building project and I end up going through the drive-in line at McDonald’s with a disguise on.
EVE: Then he tries to get rid of the evidence. I’ll find it. He thinks he can hide things from me but I’m a ninja when it comes to figuring out what my husband is up to.
Q: What about you Eve? Any food vices?
EVE: Definitely, but fast food isn’t one of them. I don’t really like to support that industry, easy as it is. We all give in to it sometimes, but that’s one I especially try not to support more than anything. I do have a cheesy puff issue. I get the organic ones and that makes me feel a little bit better but, really, it’s the same food.
Q: Eve, did you also grow up in the Homer area? How did you two meet?
EVE: My dad and stepmother have an adjacent piece of property just up the hill, so I spent the summers here. In my junior year I moved here to finish high school, because I grew up mostly in the teeny-tiny town of Gustavus, near Glacier Bay. I was bored and getting into trouble so my mom decided it was time to send me away to Dad who was going to make me do sports and lay down the law a little better.
EIVIN: Eve and I have known each other since we don’t know exactly when, but we think like age four or five. Yeah, we’ve always been sweet on each other, never been a doubt there, I’ll admit. At least for me.
Q: Did you ever think you’d grow up to be TV stars? Are you
surprised by the success of the show?
EIVIN: Absolutely not…and yes! We’re starting to, I don’t know if get used to it is the right way to say it, but just the first few years we were kind of blown away with how it was taking off. At the same time, I understand why it’s happening. I think there’s a major disconnect between people and their food, and also between people and wild spaces—and the feeling that they’re actually getting some real, honest adventure. I think it’s important in a way for people to feel the physical struggle of survival.
EVE: Really for me, it’s kind of the opposite of what I ever wanted to do in my life. Eivin had to convince me. It’s hard work. I think a lot of people think we have it easy, but there is a high price paid for doing this and
your anonymity is one of them.
Q: So do you have a television? What shows do you watch? Any other reality shows—the Kardashians maybe?
EVE: We do have a TV but don’t get any TV reception. Who are the Kardashians? We don’t watch much TV but we do watch our show when we can to make sure we’re happy with how we’re portrayed.
Q: Why did you decide to write this book? Is book production easier than television production?
EVE: Both book and TV production are a TON of work. Eivin convinced me to write this book—he convinces me to do a lot of things!—and believes in my abilities as a cook and writer, or I may not have made the leap into producing a cookbook while raising two young children.
Q: Do you both share in the cooking responsibilities at home?
EIVIN: I used to cook, then Eve and I started living together and she just is so good at it that I have kind of forgotten how. But even if I am cooking in the kitchen she tends to take over.
EVE: He can make pasta, do that type of thing but, yeah, I do most of the cooking. It’s also just that I’m home with the kids more so it is a practicality thing a lot of the time. It’s like my domain, too. Really, it’s my own damn fault that he doesn’t cook.
Q: So you have kind of fallen into traditional roles…Eivin hunts and you gather?
EVE: Well, I’ve gone hunting with Eivin lots of times but not always with a gun. I feel more like a gatherer and a nurturer than a hunter at the moment. I’m sure I’ll try hunting again someday but it was really hard on me when I killed my first deer. I want to do it but I think I’m going to hold off for a little bit; it’s hard with two small babies.
EIVIN: Eve would come back each day with more poundage in mushrooms and blueberries than I would in meat.
Q: What’s your go-to meal when time is tight?
EVE: Bone broth soup.
Q: What wild Alaskan animal do you hope you never come face to face with?
EIVIN: Definitely a hungry brown bear mother.
Q: What do you two do on date nights? How often do you get to town?
EIVIN: We only go to town when necessary. A date night can be a walk on the homestead or a romantic boat ride to The Saltry Restaurant across Kachemak Bay.
EVE: We go to the store maybe twice a month, and mostly because we love fresh fruit, lettuce in the winters, grains, and some cheese.
Q: What livestock do you have on the homestead now?
EIVIN: Cows, horses, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, pigs—and Dad has a mean old goose I want to have over for dinner.
Q: Eivin, what’s the tool you absolutely couldn’t survive without?
EIVIN: I could survive without all of my tools, but it would be a real pain in my ass.
Q: Eve, Eivin is known for his daredevil chores, which is the one that makes you most nervous?
EVE: He hurts himself all the time, so I’m nervous whenever he leaves the house.
Q: Eve, you’re known for having the green thumb in the family. What should a gardener learn to be a success?
EVE: Gardening can be a bit of trial and error. The important thing
is to figure out what is successful for you and the area you live in. It requires diligent observation of little details in your garden space and of the plants. For me personally gardening is so instinctual it makes it difficult to pass along any specific advice.
Q: What are your favorite recipes from the book?
EIVIN: Molasses Ginger Chews. It’s a recipe from my mother Sharon’s side of the family and goes way back.
EVE: High-bush Cranberry Barbecue Sauce.
Q: Do you ever get the winter blues?
EVE: Not as long as I get some exercise outdoors and do creative projects like sewing, knitting, canning—of course, making mead or wine helps too!!!