Monday, December 05, 2011

Lutefisk and Winter

Lutefisk is dried cod that is then soaked in water, then lye, then again in water. It is then either boiled in water or baked. Wikipedia says, "It is gelatinous in texture, and has an extremely strong, pungent odor. Its name literally means 'lye fish.'"

In northern Norway, the cod comes in to the coast, either to spawn or feed, between January and April. The fresh catch of cod is cleaned immediately and hung to dry on drying racks. The pure air and the cold winter climate are the ideal components in this unique processing.

In modern times, lutefisk (Norwegian) or lutfisk (Swedish) is often served around Christmas. John remembers it as one part of the Christmas Eve smorgasbord when he was a child. In Mesa, AZ, the local Sons of Norway chapter serves lutefisk on the first Saturday of December. This is the second year we have attended the dinner.

All that said, why does my plate not contain lutefisk?

Unless you are a Swede or Norwegian who grew up loving lutefisk, just read the first paragraph again and you will know why. Both John and I sampled the cod last year. This year neither of us took any. We did enjoy the meatballs, mashed potatoes, lefse and rice pudding.

Here is a plate with lutefisk.

Five of the people at our table were there because they really like lutefisk. Two of us were there because we enjoy the event. One man is of Norwegian descent and came to try it for the first time. "I don't think I will have it again any time soon," he said.

These three women were to my left. All three are members of the Sons of Norway and had worked at the annual dinner for many years. This year, they just came to eat.
From left, they are Carol, Lauri and Pat.

These are the people to John's right. I didn't get the name of the man on the left. He is the one who won't be having lutefisk any time soon. Carolyn and Larry really like the fish.

Many, if not most, of the people at the dinner are first or second generation immigrants. They are patriotic Americans, grateful to be citizens of this country. The dinner began with the Pledge of Allegiance, then a prayer in Norwegian. Music was provided by an accordion player.

Most of the members of the Sons of Norway are getting older, as you can see by those serving the food. In fact, the master of ceremonies said they had considered discontinuing the dinners because their membership was "getting up in years." But they have decided to do it for a few more years. They had a few younger people helping this year, including two foreign exchange high school students from Norway.

There also was a bake sale at St. Peter's Lutheran Church, where the lutefisk dinner was held. We bought this Julekake (Christmas cake). John loves it and says it reminds him of something he ate when he was a child. (His grandparents both immigrated from Sweden.)

It is December, and we are experiencing winter here in Mesa. Now, if you are in the parts of the country where it is snowing, you might not consider our temps in the 50s daytime and 40s overnight as winter. But we do. Yesterday morning it was foggy.

But as we drove west on our way to church, we pulled out of the fog to find sunshine.

Last night, a few of the higher mountains around the Valley received a dusting of snow.

The next couple of nights we have a freeze warming.


  1. Well, I have to say that lutefisk sounds disgusting. I wish I had known Monday morning that it had snowed. We saw some wonderful pictures on the news of snow on saguaros. I would have headed up the Beeline to see it. But generally, it's just too darn cold right now.

  2. I'm an Olsen...and my grandpa came from Norway, but oddly we never had such chemical experiments at Christmas. I guess that's because grandma came from Germany!...thank goodness. Lye is the strongest base I ever used while teaching chemistry to 9th graders. :}