Last Sunday was the 22nd Annual Lutefisk Dinner at the Sons of Norway hall, and we decided to go early and help out since there was a call for volunteers. What is Lutefisk, you may ask? Lutefisk is a Scandinavian dish, described by various Norwegian friends and relatives as either a symbol of Norwegian pride and tradition, or a symbol of Norwegian shame. It’s fish (usually cod) that has been dried and later reconstituted in lye water; today it’s reconstituted in a baking soda solution. My Dad used to talk about enduring dinners of lutefisk as a young boy and he always hated it. I’ve heard that it’s an acquired taste, though two ladies I visited with yesterday both said that they really like it, and prefer the old way of preparing it with lye water. The end result is a fish that’s somewhat jelly-like, and it’s cooked by steaming or baking. So… being a town that prides itself on its Norwegian-ness, we must pay homage to lutefisk and hold a big buffet.
The men were asked to come at 1pm to help with the lutefisk, and the women were asked to come a little later to roll Lefse. Lefse is best described as a Norwegian crepe, usually made from potatoes. Our valiant harbormaster Glo made the lefse dough ahead of time – from 50 lbs of potatoes, put through a ricer twice along with flour and butter to make a sticky, delicate dough. Long tables were set up and the local ladies brought their special lefse griddles, boards, and rolling pins. Bev is showing her skill for getting wafer thin rounds……and there were helpers of all ages – some teaching the proper technique and some (like me) learning.Jim finished some of his lutefisk duties early so he grabbed one of the special turning sticks and jumped in to help. It was a real community effort, with at least 14 people working together, laughing and telling stories. In the end, we made about 500 lefse for the dinner, and finished just before the buffet started.Occasionally we got a mutant lefse that was just too ugly to serve, so the old hands showed us newbies how to eat them – with a little schmear of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, rolled up. Mmmmm.The lutefisk preparation was less exciting to watch since a lot of the work had been done in the days beforehand. The fish was red snapper donated by a local fisherman and processed by a fish processor in town.We had 140 members and guests of the Sons of Norway, with people contributing salads, side dishes, and desserts to go along with the lutefisk and lefse. As usual there were lots of beautiful Norwegian sweaters on display, including the one worn by our funny friend Grant.
The buffet included ham for those of us who don’t eat fish (like me) or for those who just can’t stand lutefisk. Regardless of the sometimes strange cuisine, it’s good to be a viking.
We had the big snow storm last weekend which cancelled the Parks & Recreation Department’s annual Run for Chocolate – a 5K run where the entry fee is a chocolate dessert. All the entries are awarded to the runners in the order in which they finish the race, presumably with the best desserts (just desserts?) going to the fastest runners. Why not forget the running and just go straight to the chocolate (which is apparently what happened because of the cancelled race – a lot of people had already made their entry fee desserts). Sometimes a snow cancellation is a good thing, though bad cooks who are good runners might have been hoping to trade up.
This past week we helped a friend who is caretaker of a 72′ steel converted fishing boat called the CHRISTIAN. The CHRISTIAN had been a Lutheran missionary boat traveling around southeast Alaska for many years, but it’s now for sale. The boat needed to be hauled out for some maintenance and a Coast Guard inspection, and we were invited to come along for the short ride to Petersburg’s marine railway. Our friend had already shoveled the decks and made things easy, but the snow started back up as we headed to the railway, squeezed between the Coast Guard station and the big ferry dock, with a good current running.The temporary skipper of the CHRISTIAN is a retired Alaska State Trooper who used to run one of the state’s patrol boats, among many other interesting duties all over Alaska. We were impressed at his ability to handle such a big boat that he’s not very familiar with, threading it into the narrow uprights of the railway in the strong cross current.Jim and I were able to give some volunteer time to help spruce up the CHRISTIAN, and in return we were able to spend more time with the retired Trooper and his friend – both nice guys with great stories.
Hopefully working on someone else’s boat will help motivate us to get more active with our own long list of boat projects. Less time rolling lefse, more time in the bilge.
You guys are really getting into it, love it, like Jim’s apron!
I haven’t checked in for a long time so lots of travels to catch up on. I’m struck by how well you manage to become part of the local community – that’s different from “fitting into the local community” BTW. I’m sure it enriches your travels but its not always easy. Good for you for making the effort.
The lutefisk story reminded me of a story that father used to tell at mother’s expense. They came from communities over 200 miles apart – met at university. Mother’s community was settlled by Nova Scotians. Fathers family came from Lower Canada along the Ottawa River. During the 30’s the maritimers used to ship dried cod to western Canada but their generosity met with varied receptions. Father claimed that nobody could eat the stuff and that one neighbour went so far as to shingle his outhouse with it. Mother on the other hand remembered how much it was appreciated.