Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How (but not why) Lutefisk Became a Delicacy!

Since it's getting close to Christmas and I haven't done my annual lutefisk rant yet, you people are in for it today. So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and let me get this off my chest.

I am a half breed - half Norwegian and half Swedish. Just think of the conflict that must go on inside my head. Some things about being ScandiHOOvian I will never understand, and that is their love of lutefisk. It literally means "cod soaked in plutonium" - and dates back to the Viking era.

Writings from back then say that the Vikings came ashore from their long boats and shuffled along over the ground with their hands in their pockets. Their funny appearance (they were huge people and wore pants that made them look like musk ox) frightened the local villagers. So one day the village women decided to make them a special meal.

First they gathered cod in the traditional ScandiHOOvian way. They wrapped their arms around the middle sections of seals and squeezed real hard making the cod pop back out. (This later became known as the Heimlich maneuver. Today it's used to save the lives of folks who have a whole codfish lodged in their throats.) After gathering the cod - despite what I may have implied earlier - they did NOT soak the fish in plutonium. No, the village women really wanted the Vikings to suffer. So they soaked the cod in lye. I'm not kidding. The same lye, as you know, that is an industrial strength chemical and is used to clean your drains.

Remember, I told you that the day of the storm the Sons of Norway had to cancel their annual lutefisk supper. Well, they held it last night. And Ole and I, being the good ScandiHOOvians that we are - well, he's a Finlander, but he came along just in case he had to do that Heimlich maneuver on me - we attended this annual lutefisk supper with some friends that are members of the Sons of Norway. I love the Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy. But the main course, not surprisingly, was the same delicacy served to those Vikings way back when.

Anyway, the Vikings ate ravenously of this marvelous new food, despite having to chew so hard and long on the rubbery fish that in many cases, horns actually grew out of their heads. History books tell us that within a few years the Viking era ended. Most historians think the invention of more powerful weapons doomed the proud, sea-faring warriors. But some historians cling to another theory: It's pretty hard to wander the globe plundering and pillaging when you cannot wander more than 50 feet from the toilet.

In the centuries since, lutefisk has not only remained a crowd-pleaser among the ScandiHOOvian folks, it's also become very important in training sled dogs. We have a musher that lives about a half mile from us and frequently in the winter we'll see him running his dogs down the river yelling at them "Vichvin yew moots vants da lutefisk?" or "Which one of you mutts wants da lutefisk?" Then of course, they run faster because none of them want it!!

But back to the dinner.

The Sons of Norway shouldn't be confused with a similar sounding group - the Sons of Silence. The Sons of Silence don't hold a lutefisk dinner every year. And the Sons of Norway don't wear helmets, goggles and leather clothing - unless they're preparing lutefisk . . .

The dinner was to start at 5 o'clock, but being good ScandiHOOvians we, of course, arrived at 4:30. ScandiHOOvians are always early, you know. At 5 o'clock the eating began. Throughout the dinner an accordion player entertained the crowd with all the traditional lutefisk eating songs.

Approximately 1.43 seconds after receiving my plate of food that contained a chunk of lutefisk that was the same size as my head, along with a plastic fork, one of the members putting the dinner on came up and asked me if everything was okay. The plastic fork, it turns out, couldn't cut the lutefisk, which is also used as roofing material in Denmark, I'm told. Because I couldn't think of the Norwegian word for "chainsaw" I stuffed the entire slab of lutefisk into my mouth and swallowed.

That quickly ended my conversation with the questioner. I excused myself and headed for "the facilities." Seems someone else had a bit too much lutefisk also. I could tell because she was screaming "Oh, Good Lard! Ven vill yew be dun in dare?" and kept slamming her head against the door so hard that it was making the seat vibrate!!

To quote Forrest Gump - "That's all I have to say about that!"


Susan said...

Oh Lena!! It is so important to have a sense of humor! Love your story very much. Susan

Anonymous said...

I yust am happy dat you survived the lutefisk! takk!

capitolady said...

Uffda Lena, Now how did you manage to stand the smell??? Hubby tells me stories like that about Grandma making the stuff ick!

I'm happy with my family tradition of nutrolls.

:) Merry Christmas Friend. Btw, do the grand doggers bum popcorn? My girls do.

Calthea said...

Thank you for the laugh! I am glad you survived your lutefisk adventure. I won't touch the stuff myself.

Carolyn said...

You crack me up! I love fish, but can honestly say after this entry, that I will never eat lutefisk, come hell or high water.