Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Have you got your lutefisk ready for Christmas?

Well, Folks, you know it's THAT time of year again. The time when you have to resurrect your World War I gas mask when you go by the fish counter in the grocery store, or hold your breath as you drive very swiftly by the local churches that are holding their annual lutefisk suppers. All the GOOD ScandihOOvians are rubbing their tummies and salivating to the point of needing bibs in anticipation of this wonderful delicacy being served during the coming holidays. Me? I'm definitely NOT a good Scandihoovian. I can't stand the stuff. And Ole, being a Finn, doesn't hold with that kind of nonsense either.

Lutefisk starts out by hanging on racks in the dry, cool air of the ScandihOOvian countries. We lived in Iceland for several years, and fishing being the mainstay of their economy, we saw lots of the beginning stages of lutefisk.

After the fish have hung on the racks for about a year - I'm NOT Kidding - a full year, it's so dry that it tinkles in the wind and sounds like wind chimes. That's about the ONLY nice thing about lutefisk. Then it's shipped off to other countries where the good ole' Swedes and Norwegians have emigrated, snapped up by these folks and brought home with great anticipation.

In order to reconstitute the fish it has to be soaked in lye water for an extended period of time, then it's rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. How many times have you ever been eating fish and you say, "You know what this fish needs? Lye!" Me neither.

Do you remember the green slime that used to come in an egg-shaped container? Crack open that container and let the slime run and that gives you a pretty good sense of the overall feel of lutefisk. It's one of the few COOKED fish dishes that could be described as slippery.

Every Christmas my Mother dutifully shopped and shopped for the best lutefisk she could find, and on Christmas Eve would boil it, which would spread the "aroma" throughout the house. My brother and I would run to the farthest point away from the kitchen and cover our heads with layers of blankets trying to avoid the "scent." My sister, on the other hand, along with my parents practically inhaled the stuff.

Swedish food generally isn't known for being real edible, and lutefisk is awful even by those low standards. The pickled herring isn't bad, in fact I kind of like that on occasion. But among other things there's Glog, which is a purple that doesn't occur in nature, requires an open flame and tastes suspiciously like Nyquil. I truly suspect that lutefisk is what drove the Vikings to look for Canada.

Me? I think I'll stick to meatballs for Christmas. How about you?

Love Lena


Susan said...

Oh Lena, what fun! First of all, it was so good to hear the newscaster's MN/ND accent. I have eaten LUtefisk 2 or 3 times. I don't mind it. The mistake was made when I decided to prepare it at home. Oh my, did it stink!! I married a Norwegian, so we have had it in the past. Good thing I can't find it in Florida. I think the pickled herring and meatballs sound just fine!!

Marge said...

Ernie is 100% Norwegian, and his family always had lutefisk for Christmas. And Thanksgiving. And New year's Eve and Day. And for the 5 or 6 family birthdays in December. He loves it. I can handle a spoonful or two, but not the plate covered with the stuff! Our college has done a lutefisk supper for years, but didn't do so this year. All of the lutefisk eating folks are too old to come out anymore, or they have died. (Of ingesting the glutenous slop, maybe?)

TheCrankyOne said...

Not all Scandahoovian food is that bad. I love Frot (sp?) Sop, rosettes, krumkake Yulekaga and on occassion when I'm feeling nostalgic a nice piece of lefse. But I'll pass on the lutefisk, rummegrot or lindberger, or ghoumalost (I know I mangled that one), which my Grampa once described as something you find in a baby's diaper.

Anonymous said...

I love lutefisk. I grew up looking forward to Christmas because of all the relative's dinners with lutefisk and lefse. My dad, who was not Norwegian, said that he absolutely hated it for years. Then he finally tasted it and he became a fan too. The Norwegians have a lot of wonderful Christmas traditions, at least in our family.