February 7, 2009


A commercial on the radio last week, complete with they-did-their-best Norwegian accents told of the upcoming Lutefisk Dinner at the First Lutheran Church in Havre.

Lutefisk. I’ve heard of it but didn’t really know what it was and what I’d heard wasn’t particularly favorable. I mentioned it to my gardener. He didn’t know what it was either and didn't seem very enthused about eating it. Whatever it was.

But, since we both love fish, how bad could it be? We decided we’d give it a try. We paid our $13 per plate and got in line in the church hall. As we passed the tables filled with people eating and talking and laughing, I eyed the plates of food and tried to figure out why everyone had potatoes, meatballs and cabbage on their plate, but no fish. We also saw a plate of tortillas on each table.

Wait. Tortillas??

I said to my gardener, “We’re going to have to ask somebody about this, ‘cause this ain’t no barbacoa!”

Sure enough, when we got to the servers, the first gentleman put chunks of boiled potatoes on my plate. Mmm, I love boiled potatoes. The next server put several meatballs on my plate and spooned some delicious brown gravy over them and my potatoes. My only thought was “Meatballs and fish?” The third server spooned something very white and very wiggly onto my plate. Aha. What I thought was cabbage was the fish. Hmm.

We sat down to a nicely decorated table that had several things on it that to me, didn't seem to make sense. A bowl of sugar. A container of cinnamon. A pitcher of melted butter. A dish with a stick of butter on it. A bowl of cranberry sauce. A dish of coleslaw. And then there was that plate of tortillas.

My gardener and I got an education right there in the Lutheran Church hall, yes we did.

Lutefisk (pronounced LEWD-uh-fisk) literally translated means “lye (lute) fish (fisk)”. It is a traditional dish of the Nordic countries made from dried cod which has been soaked in lye and water for up to 12 days. This rehydrates the fish which is then cooked by steaming until done.

Up until six months ago we were living just 10 miles from the Mexico border. If there are tortillas on the table, you grab one, fill it with whatever is on your plate (rice, beans, meat, potatoes, whatever), roll it up and chow down. So, that’s what we did… with the lefse. Lefse is a very thin potato pancake – or more like a crepe - that is usually eaten (by everyone except us) smeared with butter then sprinkled liberally with sugar and cinnamon.

So we found out about the lefse, bowl of sugar, cinnamon and stick of butter, but what about the pitcher of melted butter? A lot of people like it poured over their lutefisk. Ah, yes, it did help somewhat. The food was delicious – yes, even the lutefisk but you had to get by the very gelatinous texture. I think this is one of those foods that you might need to start eating as a child to be able to really appreciate it. Dessert was a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a very tasty and crisp butter cookie.

Plates clean, we left the hall. My gardener and I agreed that we probably wouldn’t be attending the First Lutheran Church Lutefisk Dinner next year, but you never know... those tortillas with cinnamon and sugar were really good.

So, tell me... have you eaten lutefisk?


  1. Oh my, you are a brave person. I couldn't bring myself to eat lutefisk. Lefse on the other hand... :)

  2. wow, I never knew what lutefisk was, either. Sounds like a culinary experience :)

  3. Lutefisk soaked in a lye bath? I'll pass too lol , but yeah on the lefse!

  4. never had it! the brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and everything else sounds so southern American!

  5. The only time I had ever heard of this particular dish was watching the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous and it did not sound very appetizing. Hearing it is a very squishy food means it goes on the hell no list lol! You are both very brave for trying it! Oh & hooray for posting a pic :) Always nice to see who were chatting with :) *Waves*

  6. My fiances and I both come from Scandanavian grand parents, and his family has been having this meal every New Year's Day for many years. I like the lutefisk if it is well cooked, not a huge fan if it's still jelly like, so we cook a pan of it longer than normal. The lefse are such a hit in our family that we always make extra. They are fabulous with eggs and bacon as a breakfast wrap. I pretty much eat them with anything and then I yearn for the new year so I can have more!! Great post!! How fun that you got to experience this!

  7. I forgot to add, my fiance love this so much. He refused to eat the lutefisk when he was younger, so now he eats as much as he can. He says he's making up for lost time!! LOL!!

  8. I tried ludefisk in Denmark several times thinking that it had to be better than it was given how much people were talking about it, but I think I can safely say it's not my thing. I think your right about growing up with it. Japanese people eat fermented soy beans that are slimy and smell like dirty socks, but it's something I grew up with and love over hot rice.

  9. I've never even heard of lutefisk! I t sounds like you had an interesting meal.

  10. I grew up in an area where the only significant ethnic group was Norwegians. There was often lutefisk and lefse at one thing or another. Lefse, yes, is wonderful and very easy to make. In fact, I think I'll go make some - it's been too long. Lutefisk, on the other hand, was despised by all the kids, Norwegians and non-Norwegians alike (myself included). Parents were always pushing it on us (the kids), without much luck. My theory on lutefisk is that some people may like it as an adult just because it reminds them of their childhood. Good for you for trying it though!

  11. Oh! I forgot to mention one of the cheers done at sporting events:
    "Lutefisk, lutefisk, lefse, lefse. We're gonna beatcha, ya sure you betcha."

  12. I was just roving around a bit on your blog and found the lutefisk post. And here I am trying out norwegian brown cheese and stuff and you are way ahead going for the hard core options. Respect :)


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