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."