Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Taste I Don't Wish to Acquire

Before she could open presents on Christmas Eve, Ken Nelson's mother had to eat some lutefisk—a tradition my own Nordic ancestors had the good sense not to pick up and pass down.

The origins of lutefisk are a subject of debate. Some accounts mention a fish accidentally dropped in a washing bowl containing lye, and because of family poverty, the fish had to be eaten.
Personally, I like the story about when the Vikings were pillaging Ireland, and St. Patrick sent men to pour lye on the stores of dried fish on the longships, with the hope of poisoning the Vikings. However, rather than dying of poisoning, the Vikings declared the lye-soaked fish a delicacy and named it lutefisk. [Link]
Thus the saying, "That which does not kill us makes us hunger."

Becky Wiseman

Chery at Nordic Blue also has a fun, interesting post on lutefisk at


Thanks! Here's a clickable link.

Devorah Dumes

My favorite article on lutefisk was published years ago in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban, which has a history of debunking urban myths.

Lutefisk was not a myth, as this fellow, a newcomer to the traditional dish, discovered while visiting Oslo one year:

I'm glad to be a Dane and thus responsible only for eating Spegesild med løgsovs (uncooked herring with onion sauce).


Thanks for the link!

"The waitress, having conveyed this order to the chef, returned with a bottle and three shot glasses and spent some time interogating my host. He laughed as she left, and I asked what she said.

"Oh she said 'Is the American really going to eat lutefisk?' and when I told her you were, she said that it takes some time to get used to it."

"How long?" I asked.

"Well, she said a couple of years." replied my host. "

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