Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lutefisk Dinner

Today I'm linkingup with the Writer's Workshop over at MamaKatsLosinIt. I'm writing in response to the prompt: "Describe your least favorite meal growing up."

Every year, the holiday season brings up memories of cutting down Christmas trees, putting up lights, opening gifts, and eating delicious . . . . Lutefisk?!

Yes, my family is of Scandinavian origin. My maternal grandmother was 100% Norwegian. My paternal grandparents were also Norwegian. Thus, the tradition of eating Lutefisk on Christmas Eve was upheld on both sides of the family.

Lutefisk, for those of you not in the know, is a gelatinous, white fish served with butter (in our family). Some people apparently put cream sauce on their lutefisk, but my mother says that's sacrilegious.

Lutefisk starts out as cod. Then it's put through such a monstrous process that it becomes something entirely different. The fish is soaked in LYE. That's right, lye, a "corrosive alkaline substance," often used in soap, oven cleaner, and drain un-cloggers. And Lutefisk preparation.

After the fish is soaked in lye, it's soaked over and over in fresh water to get rid of the lye. At that point, the fish is white, jelly-like, and ready to cook and serve.

(Courtesy wikipedia.)

People of my generation and younger love to make fun of Lutefisk. It smells nasty and looks like mucus.

But, my parents' generation, and all the generations before them, revere the stuff.

I once asked my mom if she likes it so much, why does she only eat it once a year. She answered, "It's a Christmas tradition only."

And that's what it's all about. Tradition. Fortunately, and unfortunately, it's a dying tradition.

The only people who still eat Lutefisk in my family are my mother and uncle. When they are gone, no one will be left to eat Christmas Lutefisk.

That's OK with me.

We still have many Scandinavian food traditions, like Lefse and meatballs, which are delicious.

Lefse - a thin potato bread served with butter, cinnamon and sugar.

So this Christmas Eve, like every Christmas Eve that I've been alive, we will serve Lutefisk along with our meatballs, potatoes and lefse. Some of us will enjoy eating it. The rest of us will avoid looking at it, smelling it, and generally pretending it's not around, so that we can enjoy the rest of our wonderful Scandinavian meal.

Mama’s Losin’ It


  1. I've eaten lutefisk... and liked it. Perhaps because the fish was pretty flavorless and soaked in butter. And it comes with all kinds of delightful things like meatballs and lefse and cream-filled mashed potatoes and rutabagas. But I'll tell ya, liking lutefisk makes you a favorite among the older folks when you work at a Lutheran church.

  2. I bet they LOVED you! The older Lutherans sure love their lutefisk.

  3. My great grandparents ate it every year at Christmas, I just couldn't do it. My dad still eats herring every year, and he and my brother always eat oyster stew on Christmas eve, but the rest of us hold our noses and eat another slice of pizza!

  4. I've heard from my Mother that her Mother (my grandmother, who was Norwegian) and her husband, my grand-dad, would allow her to fix it occasionally because she loved it so. My Mother never claimed to have eaten any of it, though she said it was quite smelly. LOL.

  5. Oh, my. And I thought I had it bad with the lima beans that my dad would force on us. I think having to eat the other delicious foods on your table would be hard with having to smell the fish. You have my respect!