"Eight or Nine, Maybe Ten" is what my Dad said when I asked him now many church dinners he and his girlfriend Aggie had attended. Now, for those of you who don't know what "church dinners" are.... There is this tradition in Minnesota where every fall churches, mostly of the Lutheran variety, serve a meal in the church. The churches charge admission (according to my Dad rates vary from $7.00 to $12.00). So, this is not a program for reaching out to the homeless. The more popular ones attract large crowds (hundreds) hungry for featured items like home made pies, ham, roast beef, turkey, Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, lefse and yes, of course, lutefisk. Most all of them have lefse, some have Lutefisk. "It was no good" was my Dad's response to the Lutefisk he got this year.
My 86-year-old Dad and I outside his apartment in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Lefse & lutefisk are what a lot of people get excited about.
Lefse is a primarily potato driven, flat, soft, bread type of delicacy that purists (i.e. my family eats it) roll up and eat cold with a little butter and white sugar.
Lutefisk is a barely edible, slimy, gelatin like, white fish that they soak in lye (can you imagine eating something that has soaked in lye for weeks, perhaps months)? When I was a kid, I sold Lutefisk to our customers in the Red Owl store in Kerkhoven MN. We would get large vats full of liquid with the lutefisk floating in it. We kept these vats in the walk in cooler. People would come up to the counter and order big portions of it so I would go into the walk in, fish it out (pun intended) of the ice cold fluid, and put the slimy, nasty stuff into clear plastic bags. Made me wonder if our customers hadn't lost their minds.
Apparently, they took it home, ate it and enjoyed it because every year, late in the fall, we sold hundreds of pounds of Lutefisk. The season for Lutefisk sales in MN runs from around Halloween, ramping up to Christmas when demand is high. After Christmas, Lutefisk pretty much disappears from both stores and minds until the next season rolls around.
For those of us from a Scandinavian background, both lefse and lutefisk bring back memories of home, Christmas and of Mom cooking up all kinds of great stuff in the kitchen. I guess that is why I miss it so much.
There really are a few people who live the life of Lake Woebegone.