Won’t cook it, eat it, touch it
and you wouldn’t either: lutefisk

Look, Scandinavians and non-Scandinavians. I am not an expert on lutefisk.

I repeat the word "not."

It seems that because I once wrote a column on lutefisk, and the fact that I can't cook it, won't eat it, and wouldn't even consider touching it, I am suddenly getting e-mail from around the country asking me for information on lutefisk.

If you missed that information, just let me tell you that lutefisk is, supposedly, a Scandinavian delight. Swedes, like me, say loot-fisk. Norwegians, like my best high school buddy Suzy, say loot-e-fisk.

It's cod. Dried. Soaked first in water, then in lye. And it's soaked about a week or more so the flesh can soften. Then it's soaked in water for another week to get rid of the lye. Then you cook it. And no matter what you do, it comes out looking like a gelatinous mass. Or mess.

Some people call it Norwegian jello.

If you ever have to eat it, disguise the taste with a lot of butter. Which won't affect the slimy feeling in your mouth. Just eat the flaskorv instead, which is a really great potato and pork sausage that, yes, I actually do make.

Back to the lutefisk. My father once sent a bucket of it to my grandmother. From Iowa to Colorado. In the back of our car. Curt and the kids weren't too pleased to share the ride.

I write about it now because, at least in my home growing up, it was a Christmas treat. And I write about it now because another Swede just sent me a couple poems.

One, is a takeoff on the Christmas carol "O Tannebaum," which is German for "Oh, Christmas Tree," which is what my husband's Germanic family sings. And which is better than eating lutefisk.

I don't know who wrote this little ditty, but it goes like this:

"O lutefisk, O lutefisk, how fragrant your aroma,

"O lutefisk, O lutefisk, you put me in a coma.

"You smell so strong, you look like glue.

"You taste just like an overshoe.

"But lutefisk, come Saturday,

"I think I'll eat you anyway."

Well, I'm not eating it any day of the week. You either love it, or hate it, and I'm one of the latter. So I don't have a recipe, don't ask. And I don't serve it.

And my children probably don't even know what it is. I spared them the experience. Which is not something my parents spared me. My brother, who spent his childhood eating nothing except Pep cereal and vanilla ice cream, probably threw up when they made him eat it.

But he always threw up. It was just something he did. I wonder what he eats when he goes out to dinner now with his fellow bank examiners. And I wonder if he still throws up.

Some people, like the Sons of Norway, actually like it. (Don't tell me I'm politically incorrect by saying the Sons eat lutefisk–they do, and if they don’t they should. They should eat the Swedes share as well.)

And there are all those lutefisk jokes. Like why did the Vikings leave Scandinavia? To get away from the lutefisk.

And, there's an old Scandinavian recipe that tells you to let the lutefisk sit on a pineboard for a day, then throw away the lutefisk and eat the board.

So, we're not having it. This week. Or, any week. Because, as Don Freeburg wrote, in his parody of "The Night Before Christmas"...

"Then I summoned that resolve for which our bread is known.

"My hand took the fork as with a mind of its own.

"And with reckless abandon that lutefisk I ate.

"Within 20 seconds I'd cleaned up my plate.

"Uncle Kermit flashed me an ear to ear grin

"As butter and cream sauce dripped from his chin.

"Then in my great shock, he whispered in my ear

"I'm sure glad this is over for another year."

Merry Christmas to all. From your State Representative, and lutefisk-free Scandinavian. May all your Christmas traditions be happy ones.

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