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How (but not why) lutefisk became a delicacy!!

By Rich Tosches For the Appleton Post-Crscent, Appleton ,Wisconsin

The Scandinavian delicacy known as lutefisk - which means, literally, "cod soaked in plutonium"- dates to the Viking era.

Journals from that era tell us that Vikings often came ashore and shuffled along with their hands in their pockets. Their funny appearance (huge,musk ox trousers) and vocabulary (Whooaa! Like Svenjornssen, dude! Whooaaa!") frightened the villagers.

So one day, women from the Jvoorssen, Bjaastivik and Njorkssen families prepared a special meal for the Vikings.

First, they gathered cod in the traditional Scandinavian way. That's right, they wrapped their sturdy arms around the middle sections of seals and squeezed real hard.(This would later become known as the Heimlich maneuver, which today is used to save the lives of people who have an entire codfish lodged in their throats.)

After gathering the cod - despite what I may have implied earlier - they did not soak the fish in plutonium. No the women really wanted the Vikings to suffer.

So they soaked the cod - here I am not kidding - in lye. The same lye, as you know, that is an industrial chemical and in used today as a drain cleaner.

With that lutefisk information in my head I went to our village's annual Lutefisk Dinner recently, a marvelous night of traditional Scandinavian dining put on by the local Sons of Norway club. The main course, not surprisingly, was the very same delicacy served to the Vikings.

Anyway, the Vikings ate heartily of this marvelous new food, despite having to chew so hard and long on the rubbery fish that in many cases, horns actually grew out of their heads (see encyclopedia drawings).

Textbooks tell us that within a few years the Viking era had ended. Most historians think the advent of more powerful weapons doomed the proud, sea-faring warriors. But some historians cling to another theory: It's pretty hard to wander the globe plundering and pillaging when you cannot wander more than 50 feet from the toilet.

Despite this somewhat negative side-effect - during the Lutefisk Era the Vikings had a common saying: "Leif Ericson hazzen sparts vection agenn!" ("Leif Ericson has the sports section again!") - lutefisk actually became popular with the residents of the Scandinavian countries. This would include Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Minnesota.

In the centuries since, lutefisk has not only remained a crowd-pleaser among the Scandinavian people, it has also become important in the training of sled dogs. Today, a common cry from the musher on the sled - one that causes even a veteran dog to quiver - is "Vichvun yew moots vants da lutefisk?" or " Which one of you mutts wants da lutefisk?"

But back to the dinner.

The Sons of Norway should not be confused with a similar-sounding group, the Sons of Silence. For one thing, the sons of Silence do not hold a Lutefisk Dinner each year. And, of course, the Sons of Norway don't wear helmets, goggles and protective leather clothing.

Unless they are preparing lutefisk..

The dinner was to start at 5 p.m. but I arrived at 4:30 remembering the old Norwegian saying Erly birdin ut letefisk, den dees ("The early bird catches the lutefisk, then dies.").

The Sons of Norway dress up for big events such as Lutefisk Night. Many women wore the brightly colored, old-fashioned dresses of Scandinavia. The men looked just as snappy in their finest herringbone sports jackets - the traditional Scandinavian kind made entirely of herring bones.

(Important note: So that I do not offend a huge group of people with some of these cheap, flippant remarks, I'd like to point out right here that Scandinavians are a striking handsome people. This makes them nearly the exact opposite of the English.)

Anyway, at 5 p.m. the eating began. The dinner was held at the Benet Hill Monastery cafeteria, a facility chosen to host the Lutefisk Dinner because of the warm hospitality and, of course, because of the monks training in the Last Rites.

Throughout the dinner, an accordion player entertained the crowd with all the traditional lutefisk-eating songs. This included the very popular "Sven Vood Rather yeet His Trousers" and the foot-tapping favorite, Ivane, Ivane, Your Lutefisk Has Cleared My Drain."

The highlight for me came when KKTV reporter Ann Ervin asked me to speak to a live TV audience about my experience with lutefisk. She made this request roughly 1.4 seconds after handing me a plate containing a chunk of lutefisk that was the same size as my head, along with a plastic fork.

The plastic fork, it turns out, could not cute the lutefisk, which is also used as roofing material in Denmark.

But because the camera was rolling - and because I could not seem to recall the Norwegian word for "chainsaw" - I stuffed the entire slab of Sons of Norway lutefisk into my mouth and swallowed.

Well, I've got to wrap this up now.

Seems another guy also had a bit too much lutefisk.

I say this because he is presently screaming "Oh , Good Lard! Ven vill yew be dun in dare?" and ramming his head against the door so hard that it it making the seat vibrate.



Rich Tosches is a columnist for the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph.

Edited by waysider
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The house was abundantly aromatic as we entered. The kids ran in to their grandmother's house in full anticipation of opening gifts, oogling the tree, and eating the feast we knew she had been preparing for days.

But Grandmother was upset. No, make that p i s s e d - at best.

No Yorkshire pudding this year.

No rich gravy, even.

Nope. None of those wonderfully fattening things with our dinner this year because the butcher had TRIMMED the roast. There was almost no fat on it.

My mother was not easily consoled on that one.

NEVER - I repeat - NEVER!! EVER! deprive a Brit of her bad cholesterol!

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