Editor's column: I failed at the lutefisk test
By now most of us have finished our Thanksgiving meal and are looking forward to the next holiday open house or festive meal offered by some nonprofit or church or relative or friend.
Some, as I was reminded at the Nov. 14 Scandinavian meal at First Lutheran Church in Morris, are anxiously waiting for a Christmas meal that includes lutefisk.
Although Tom Olson of Morris told me on Nov. 14 that lutefisk "is the best thing that happened to cod," I can't agree.
I tried lutefisk for at least the second time in my life at the Nov. 14 meal. I believe the last time I tried lutefisk was about 25 years ago when the Cottonwood Lions Club made a lutefisk meal. The club stopped making that meal not long after I tried lutefisk. I'm not to blame but I think I helped a few misguided souls see the light.
I believe there is a lot of peer pressure to like lutefisk. Few things can be more intimidating during the holiday season than someone's smiling grandmother wearing her Nordic sweater under a festive apron encouraging you to eat your lutefisk. With butter even. And white sauce. Because what is a Scandinavian dish without some more slippery white-colored stuff to add to that appealing pale hue?
I was encouraged to try lutefisk by several workers and diners at the First Lutheran Church meal. These were some really nice folks who genuinely thought they were being nice. I received a small piece in a clear plastic container. I added a little white sauce and some butter.
I stuck my fork in, and yes, the lutefisk was flaky and didn't really smell, er, smell too bad. But folks, it was still tasteless. And to me, kind of gooey and chewy. In short, I still don't like it. I don't really get it but hey, some folks don't like stuff I like. I failed the lutefisk test.
Lutefisk eaters Cork and Craig Loge told me they don't like salmon but they love lutefisk.
I think that their palate has been altered by too much lutefisk and lefse.
My ancestors were not Scandinavian. They were mostly German but some family members only traced the family tree back so far, I think, because there might have been some family scandal. I never got the full story, just whiffs of it at reunions and in the conversations my dad had with his cousins and siblings when they spoke German to each other. It could be some of my ancestors were Norwegians. Swedish or Dutch. Or maybe they were just a bunch of chicken thieves.
My dad didn't like his foods mixed together so I rarely ate hotdish when I grew up. There was no way my family was going to try lutefisk or lefse. We loved fish, but even if we lived in Iowa, we weren't going to eat bullhead, let alone lutefisk.
The only ethnic or semi-ethnic dish I grew up with was sauerkraut. Ick. Double ick. The smell and the taste. I didn't know what German potato salad was until I tried some at a restaurant in New Ulm. Ick. Double ick.
So, good luck to all you lutefisk lovers. Just so you know, I don't think anyone in any Scandinavian country eats it anymore. Maybe you can invite them to dinner.