There were two items each Christmas that my brother, sister, and I had to endure; a crazy Christmas church schedule which ensured we never sat together and caused enough stress to barely make Christmas bearable AND the stink of Lutefisk in the house for an entire week.
See in the olden days (yes, my youth) the Lutefisk still needed to be soaked in lye prior to baking. The smells would permeate every fiber, every cell, every surface of the house. Winter coats weren’t safe; hair needed to be washed about three times a day, the couch still smelled of the Lutefisk as far out as spring break. True story.
And that’s only the smell. The taste is a whole ‘nother thing. Know how to get a bite of Lutefisk down? Have a piece of Lefse coated in butter and sugar ready to go immediately after. A Swedish meatball dredged in gravy doesn’t hurt as a back up too. ANYthing to get that Lutefisk taste out of your mouth.
But the quicker you take your mandatory bites of the jelly fish, the sooner we could get dishes done and open prizes. Parental blackmail is so effective.
Until one year. The year of the Christmas Revolution. My mom decided that the meatballs would be served on Christmas day instead so we were missing a key ingredient to our back-up plan. The Lefse was pretty much finished off before we even sat down for dinner which left the Lutefisk and potato’s. UffDa! WHAT NOW????
That’s when my older brother, Jerry, staged one of the most magnificent Coup’s in history. He jumped out of his chair, stood up so majestically I was sure he grew to around 10 feet tall and declared, “ENOUGH! I’m making us hamburgers! Who’s with me?” (Okay, I added the ‘who’s with me’ for dramatical affect, he didn’t really say that but it adds flair doesn’t it?)
I sat in stunned silence. Hamburgers? That’s an option? I nervously looked at my dad who just kept eating. Mom, on the other hand, didn’t go down without a fight. “Don’t even think about it Jerome John Peterson!” You know Mom’s mean business when you get all three names staccato’d out. True story.
My dad, in between bites of the jellyfish finally said, “Aww, just let him make some burgers. Kids should eat what they want on Christmas.” Parent point goes to Pastor John.
And we ate hamburgers for Christmas Eve dinner. I can probably say without a doubt that it was, and is still, the greatest hamburger of my life. A burger served with a side of revolution. What’s not to love?
Ya know what though, I miss the smells of Lutefisk. It’s Christmas. Yes, it’s disgusting, but bygod it’s Christmas and the house should stank of Lutefisk. I’ve even made it in past years and my husband loves me so much he ate it. Put enough butter on pretty much anything and he’ll eat it. Since we didn’t go to Minnesota for Christmas this year I had to pass on having it in the house and that makes me a little melancholy for it.
But we DO have Olsen’s pickled herrings, which has been around since 1910 which means that we’ve been eating the Lutefisk from Olsen’s since about 1971 (well, me anyway.) I have two buckets worth fresh from Minnesota and I can’t wait. I overeat pickled herrings at Christmas time. Get in enough just to last me another 11 months. (I actually love it all year round but will only eat Olsen’s. Tradition.)
And even though I do miss the smells and the groans of having Lutefisk in the house, I’ll be sure to enjoy just as much the prime rib roast and pierogi and herrings and crescent rolls (I swear to god if you don’t eat crescent rolls at the holidays I don’t even want to know you) and swedish meatballs and…well you get the picture. We do aight. But the smells aren’t the same.
(Sung to O Christmas Tree)
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 tink I eat you anyvay
O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, you have a special flavor.
O Lutefisk, O lutefisk, all good Norvegians savor.
That slimy slab we know so well
Identified by ghastly smell.
O Lutefisk, O lutefisk,
Our loyalty won’t waver.