Saturday, January 26, 2013


Oh Lutefisk
by Red Stangeland 
[Sung to the tune of 'O Tannunbaum]
Lutefisk... Oh Lutefisk... how fragrant your aroma
Oh Lutefisk... Oh Lutefisk... You put me, in a coma
You smell so strong... You look like glue
You taste yust like an overshoe
Put Lutefisk ... come Saturday
I tink I'll eat you anyway.
This was one meal that was worth a whole blog just in itself with the table conversation that ensued at a local restaurant while dining out with family members.  After much discussion it was decided to order Lutefisk as an appetizer. That  way each person could try a small piece. And believe me that is all you would want!
Did you know
- that you must NOT cook lutefisk in aluminum vessels as it will darken the kettle.
- there is a town in Minnesota named Madison, after Madison, Wisconsin, that is called the Lutefisk capital of the world?
- that thanks to the freezing facilities of today it would be possible to eat lutefisk all the year round?
This dried cod fish resembles a quivering hunk of white Jell-O. Lutefisk is usually served with a white cream and a small cup of butter which helps the taste. Sides are usually mashed potatoes and peas.
Lutefisk spelled In Sweden = Lutfisk In Denmark = Ludefisk In Norway = Lutefisk
It is a traditional dish of Nordic countries. It is made from aged air dried whitefish (cod) and lye. It is gelatinous in texture and has an extremely pungent odor. The name lutefisk literally means lye fish. Lutefisk typically turns up in stores and markets during the winter holiday season. There is a website which is an authoritative guide to annual Lutefisk dinners  throughout the Upper Midwest and Minnesota at mostly Lutheran churches, VFW and Legion clubs and cultural gatherings. 
Those who have consumed a Lutefisk dinner seem to earn boasting rights to this regional fare. Jokes, songs, books,shirts, bags,aprons  and comedy routines are just some of popular offshoots of Lutefisk humor. 
Opinions are divided on how to cook it. Baking or boiling seem to be the most popular methods. It is one heritage recipe that is stubbornly unimproved and needs to be seen and tasted to be understood. 
I thought these words from Jeffrey Steingarten were rather eloquent.
  • Interview with Jeffrey Steingarten, author of The Man Who Ate Everything (translated quote from a 1999 article in Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet:)
"Lutefisk is not food, it is a weapon of mass destruction. It is currently the only exception for the man who ate everything. Otherwise, I am fairly liberal, I gladly eat worms and insects, but I draw the line on lutefisk."
"What is special with lutefisk?"
"Lutefisk is the Norwegians' attempt at conquering the world. When they discovered that Viking raids didn't give world supremacy, they invented a meal so terrifying, so cruel, that they could scare people to become one's subordinates. And if I'm not terribly wrong, you will be able to do it as well."
"But some people say that they like lutefisk. Do you think they tell the truth?"
"I do not know. Of all food, lutefisk is the only one that I don't take any stand on. I simply cannot decide whether it is nice or disgusting, if the taste is interesting or commonplace. The only thing I know, is that I like bacon, mustard and lefse. Lutefisk is an example of food that almost doesn't taste anything, but is so full of emotions that the taste buds get knocked out."
Minnesota lutefisk recipes reflect the Scandinavian heritage of our state.
Some love it, some hate it, but if you want a "real" Minnesota food experience you should try lutefisk at least once! 

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