As I prepare to go home for Thanksgiving and see my family, I think of my full-blooded Norwegian grandfather. And when I think of him, I think of lutefisk. And then my gag reflex kicks in.
For those of you not from the upper Midwest (WI, MN, IA, ND, SD, etc.), you probably have no idea what lutefisk is. Here is your first idea of what you are dealing with. Wisconsin state statutes specifically state that lutefisk is not a hazardous substance (see Wis. Stat. 101.58(2)(j)(2)(f)). When state laws are necessary to say that your ethnic delicacy is not the equivalent of pesticides or nuclear waste, you begin to see where the problem lies.
Take a perfectly good piece of cod. Soak it in water until it has the consistency of jelly. Soak it in lye. Soak it in water again. Cook it in a pan. Pass out from the smell, which approximates a chemical spill at an animal rendering plant. Wake up from the smell. Try to eat it by just swallowing little bits, hoping that if you don't chew it, you won't taste it. A sickened grimace crosses your face as you realize that you can still taste it.
There is your Cliff Notes recipe for lutefisk. And now you understand why aquavit is necessary. Clay Shirky put it best.
To understand the relationship between aquavit and lutefisk, here's an experiment you can do at home. In addition to aquavit, you will need a slice of lemon, a cracker, a dishtowel, ketchup, a piece of lettuce, some caviar, and a Kit-Kat candy bar.
1. Take a shot aquavit.
2. Take two. (They're small.)
3. Put a bit of caviar on a bit of lettuce.
4. Put the lettuce on a cracker.
5. Squeeze some lemon juice on the caviar.
6. Pour some ketchup on the Kit-Kat bar.
7. Tie the dishtowel around your eyes.
If you can taste the difference between caviar on a cracker and ketchup on a Kit-Kat while blindfolded, you have not had enough aquavit to be ready for lutefisk. Return to step one.I love my grandfather. But not enough to eat lutefisk.
Holidays In The Sun -- The Sex Pistols
Mean, Mean World -- John Lee Hooker