Lutefisk Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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  • Take some fish, preferably cod.
  • Hang it in the sun for a month.
  • When it's rock hard, take it down.

You now have "tørrfisk", which is dried fish. Smells awful. Tørrfisk can be kept for years. As long as it's kept dry.

Whenever you are in the mood for lutefisk, just get the tørrfisk from wherever you have stored it. Submerge the hard, dead, dried, smelly fish in caustic soda and leave it for 24 hours. The smell doesn't improve, but at least it becomes soft. (What doesn't become soft after a day in caustic soda?)

'This must be wrong!' you might think. But no, this is how it is done. When the fish looks gooey, heat it in warm water. Do not boil it, mind you. Boiling makes it rubbery, and you don't want that, it's bad enough as it is. And that's it! You have made yourself lutefisk.

This sounds horrible. And most people agree1, it does taste like old, dried, dyed and re-heated fish. Norwegians use years of their life to get used to the squishy, semi-transparent piece of fishlike food wobbling on their plate soaked in grease, so do not give in on your first try. Keep your spirits up!

The question that pops to your mind now should be 'Why? Why do Norwegians use so much time to get used to eat something that obviously never was intended as human food?' I guess there are several answers to that. One is that you're not a 'real Norwegian' if you don't eat lutefisk, so the honour of the whole nation rests upon them. And since Norwegians are very proud of their nation, they do whatever possible to avoid embarrassment.

The second reason are the 'accessories' that go with lutefisk. 'Accessories' in this case doesn't mean the potatoes, grease, fried bacon and everything else you need to make it edible. The main accessory to lutefisk is huge amounts of beer and aquavit2 .

So if you eat your lutefisk, you'll get some glasses of aquavit as a reward. This makes lutefisk extremely social and fun. Try it!

Researcher's Note: I prefer to eat my lutefisk meals without the fish. No pain, just sheer fun.

1Even most Norwegians will agree that lutefisk tastes bad, but you'll need to pour huge amounts of aquavit in them to get this confession.2A clear Scandinavian liquor made by re-distilling neutral spirits and then flavouring them with caraway seeds.

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