Lutefisk: What Is It and Why Do People Eat It?

"Norway-Lutefisk-01" by by Adam_d - Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons -
Lutefisk for sale in Norway. (Photo by Flickr user Adam_d via Wikimedia Commons)

We’re talking about lutefisk today.

As someone of Scandinavian descent, who grew up in a town nicknamed Little Norway, lutefisk has been a part of my life since I was born, despite the fact that I’ve only eaten it once.

Lutefisk is a traditional Scandinavian fish dish made with cod or other whitefish.

The cod is soaked in water for the better part of a week, before being soaked in a combination of water and lye for two days. It is then soaked in water for another week or so before being cooked.

During the lye soak, the fish swells and takes on a jelly-like consistency. After all of its various soakings, the fish is baked or steamed until it’s cooked.

In Scandinavia, it is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and green peas, and sometimes horseradish or a white sauce. In the U.S., you’ll see it commonly served with meatballs and lefse, a potato-based flat bread that is similar in appearance to a tortilla.

Because of its gelatinous consistency, lutefisk leftovers must be cleaned off plates immediately or it will become nearly impossible to remove later. Also, stainless steel utensils are recommended as the chemicals in lutefisk will ruin silver.

So, eat up. Or do like I do and skip the lutefisk and fill up on lefse with butter and sugar or cinnamon.

Our question, and no it’s not “what’s wrong with people who eat lutefisk?” The question is: What town calls itself the lutefisk capital of the world?

Today is International Human Rights Day; It’s Constitution Day in Thailand and Alfred Nobel Day in Sweden. Today is unofficially Dewey Decimal System Day. It’s the birthday of poet Emily Dickinson, mathematician Ada Lovelace, and actor Kenneth Branagh.

Song: “Oh, Lutefisk” by Stan Boreson


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