Uff da! Lutefisk dinner celebrates heritage

Pat Brittain, Sons of Norway member, cuts fabric to place on tables for the Oslo Lodge’s 70th Lutefisk Dinner and Ladies Club Bazaar, Oct. 30. - Photo by Sean Janssen
Pat Brittain, Sons of Norway member, cuts fabric to place on tables for the Oslo Lodge’s 70th Lutefisk Dinner and Ladies Club Bazaar, Oct. 30.
— image credit: Photo by Sean Janssen

Lutefisk lives on as an instantly recognizable piece of the Norwegian culture in America.

Too bad the Norwegians gave it up long ago.

“They don’t eat lutefisk very much in Norway, it’s become a fad with the younger generation and some stores popping up,” explained Bremerton Sons of Norway librarian Jan Becker. “It’s something the pioneers did. It was kind of a survival food is how it got started. To us, it’s something sentimental or nostalgic.”

Becker is careful to pronounce lutefisk with the “e” in it.

“You can tell who’s Swedish and who’s Norwegian,” she said.

It is the Swedes that make it a silent “e,” saying the word as “loot-fisk.”

Swedish or Norwegian, or maybe just interested in either, all are welcome to the Sons of Norway 70th annual lutefisk dinner Oct. 30. In addition to lutefisk, a dried cod soaked in lye water (don’t worry, it’s soaked again a few times in plain water before it is served, according to Becker), there’s lefse, a potato pancake also indigenous to the Nordic region, meatballs, boiled potatoes, carrots, coleslaw and ice cream.

Deanna Dowell, Ladies Club president for the lodge, said 27 greeters will welcome dinnergoers between the front door and their seats. Friendly folk, those Norwegians.

Artistic as well. Dowell said the hardanger (Norwegian for “hand-work”), embroidered flour-sack dish towels, are well-liked.

“They’re Grandma’s dish towels,” Dowell said.

More art comes in the form of rosemaling, “a form of decorative flower painting that originated in the low-land areas of eastern Norway in about 1750,” according to the Wikipedia. A piece finished by Marilyn Hansen just this month is featured in the library of the lodge.

Another popular Ladies Club item is the four varieties of Norwegian cookie that “usually sells out by 2” on the day of the dinner and Ladies Club Bazaar.

Becker just hopes dinner guests will get a sense of the country she loves and is delighted to have visited a couple of times.

“It’s a wonderful place, Norway. It’s beautiful,” she said. “All the scenic qualities we have in Western Washington except to a greater degree. We have one fjord, Hood Canal, and they have hundreds.”

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