Some of us went to Fresno Saturday for the annual Vasa Lodge lutefisk feed, and I believe most of us made it home all right, although when I got up the next morning I had to go back to bed for awhile. To people who aren’t used to lutefisk, accompanied by nonalcoholic gløgg, it can take a lot out of them. Gløgg is sort of like drinking straight sugar. It’s so strong, they pass it around with hypodermic needles filled with insulin.
The reason they made the gløgg nonalcoholic is that the Lutherans didn’t want people stumbling all over one another in the Lutheran Church social hall, where the soire was held, and spilling their lutefisk-heaped plates on the carpets.
The rumor is that a few years ago the ladies of the Vasa Lodge cooked the lutefisk in the church kitchen, and the ladies of the church couldn’t use the ovens for several months afterwards because it took that long to get the smell out of them. Imagine what it would have done to church carpets.
Actually, once the lutefisk is cooked it doesn’t smell like much, which is the whole point. The smell is left behind in whatever building was used to cook it.
Lutefisk is the Scandinavian word for “dried cod that doesn’t taste like much.” In preparation, the salted cod fillets are soaked in water for a week, with large women wearing masks coming by to change the water. Then, for two more days, the fish fillets are soaked in still more water, while the women go to a spa and take long baths. Then, there is more soaking in water that is changed daily for another week or so.
Then it is cooked, after which it looks, tastes and smells not unlike rubber cement that has been sitting around in a bottle without the cap for a few days. It is mixed with melted butter and served over mashed potatoes all topped with a white sauce.
What a treat! The Americans of Scandinavian descent just can’t get enough of it. I think it reminds them of why their ancestors emigrated to the United States in the first place.