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Q: Lutefisk: its national origin? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   4 Comments )
Subject: Lutefisk: its national origin?
Category: Family and Home > Food and Cooking
Asked by: nautico-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 04 Sep 2003 12:41 PDT
Expires: 04 Oct 2003 12:41 PDT
Question ID: 252321
Lutefisk is a traditional Scandinavian dish of lye-cured cod, usually
served at Christmas (by and to those who can stomach the stuff). I,
for one, love it. It's served with boiled potatoes, a white sauce,
lots of melted butter, and pepper. My question is this: did it
originate in Norway or Sweden (lots of controversy over this)?

Clarification of Question by nautico-ga on 04 Sep 2003 15:07 PDT
I can abide snappy.

Clarification of Question by nautico-ga on 04 Sep 2003 22:55 PDT
Speculations and in a snappy package, too? Go for it.
Subject: Re: Lutefisk: its national origin?
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 05 Sep 2003 11:54 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

                   TAKE THIS FISK AND LUTE IT

The matter of lutefisk's true national origin is hotly disputed. As
one who does not like lutefisk, I am amazed that any nation would
admit to having created this dish, but, as the French say, "à chacun
son goût," which means "a cha-cha with my son, who has gout."

Below are a few online references to lutefisk/lutfisk/ludefisk which
assign it to one nation or another. Apparently there is a
distinctiveness in the way that different nations prepare the dish:
Norwegians like it with a butter sauce, while Swedes prefer a cream

From the FAQ of the newsgroup (no, really, I didn't
make it up):

"Lutefisk is a traditional Norwegian seafood dish made of cod, and
either lye, or lime (the mineral, not the citrus fruit)."

Official FAQ V.1

"Every country has its culinary specialties. Nostalgic memories tug at
your heart strings if, when separated by distance, these favorites are
set before you. Norway's lutefisk is such a specialty to many."

Sons of Norway

"Translated, lutefisk means lye fish, which refers to the process of
soaking dry fish in lye solution.

In the sagas of the Norwegian Kings, from the 12th century, Snorre
wrote about King Oystein building fishing shanties in the Lofoten area
of Norway. Then, as now, Lofoten was the most important spawning
ground for the cod. The months of January through April are the time
huge catches are taken from the fjords of Norway.

The Norwegian-Artic species of the cod spends its life in the feeding
grounds of the Barents Sea. At maturity, from six to seven years, the
spawning cod migrate, returning to the Lofoten area. In many
countries, Norway is known for it's protein rich quality fish
products. Among these, stockfish is rated by many as a real delicacy.

Dry cod, or stockfish, from which lutefisk is processed, is as rich in
history as it is flavorful and nutritious.

Stockfish is one of Norway's oldest commodities for trading with other
countries. In the olden days, stockfish was taken along on long
voyages by the Vikings for trading as well as part of their diet."

Mike's Lutefisk           

"Remember when you first tasted that Scandinavian 'delicacy' lutefisk?
Soaked in lye before you eat it, it's 'the fish that passeth all
understanding.' Legions of Scandinavians fanatically devour it at
holiday time. Others wonder why.

Floods of Scandinavian immigrants crossed America's shores from 1850
on.  They brought us the lutefisk (Norwegian), lutfisk (Swedish) or
ludefisk (Danish) custom... Lutefisk, originally cod caught in the
cold waters off northern Norway, is dry-preserved in rock-hard slabs
called stock fish. To be table ready requires soaking in water, then
lye (lute), then more water."

Amherst H. Wilder Foundation 

"Lutefisk (from the Swedish lutfisk) is a Swedish-origin dish of dried
cod soaked first in cold water, then in a special mixture of water and
potash lye and finally simmered until tender and flaky."

Finnish Recipe Archive 

"Lutefisk is a Swedish food.  It's made from salt cod reconstituted
with a weak lye solution.  For the unitiated it's a bit like grey-fish

Post from alt.religion.christian.roman-catholic newsgroup

"Who could have predicted that Sweden would be able to boast of having
the bestcooking in  Europe? Meatballs, herring and 'ludefisk' were
staples of 19th century Swedish cooking-and still are."

Culinary Sewden

"Whether you are Swedish or Norwegian makes a big difference in the
enjoyment of lutefisk:  that is, whether you serve lutefisk in the
Svenske or Norske manner.

Norwegians, confusing lutefisk with a sort of dried, lye-soaked
lobster, tend to serve it with melted ("drawn") butter.  (Although my
friend Judith always told how her father would roll lutefisk and
boiled potatoes in lefse for a sort of Norwegian fajita)
Swedes, with more class all around, serve lutefisk with a smooth,
buttery cream sauce sprinkled lightly with allspice.  Lovely.

Then, there was the Christmas a few years back when my sister and
brother-in-law in Superior, Wisc., had an exchange student from Norway
who was a vegetarian.  In honour of the occasion, we quietly steamed a
plate of plain tofu and slipped it on the table, explaining with
straight face to everyone that it was vegetarian lutefisk.  My nephew
Kristophor thought it was wonderful and ate most of it.

When you're Scandinavian, you don't need to account for taste."

Post from rec.arts.wobegon newsgroup

A little lutefiskian humor:

Urban Legends: Ode to Lutefisk

Law Zone: The Lutefisk Ritual

Pineaire: How (but not why) lutefisk became a delicacy!!

A few books: The Last Word on Lutefisk The Last Toast to Lutefisk One Hundred One Things to Do with Lutefisk

Search terms used:

"lutefisk" OR "lutfisk" OR "ludefisk" + "origin"
"lutefisk" OR "lutfisk" OR "ludefisk" + "norwegian"
"lutefish" OR "lutfisk" OR "ludefisk" + "swedish"

Thanks for an enjoyable fishing trip. If I may venture an opinion, it
seems to me that, since there are many more references on the Web to
lutefisk as a Norwegian food than as a Swedish food (and very few that
attribute it to the Danes), it seems logical to go with Norway as the
originating nation. I am saying this mainly because my friend Karen is
threatening me with some of her homemade lutefisk if I don't talk up
the Norwegians. Karen can really put the fear of cod into me. ;-)

nautico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Hahahahahahaha!!! Ohhhh, this answer takes the cod....uhhh....cake!

Subject: Re: Lutefisk: its national origin?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 04 Sep 2003 13:13 PDT
If we want to get technical, "lutefisk" is the Norwegian word for this
delicacy. The Swedes call it "lutfisk." As for the matter of national
origin, this is a subject that is hotly contested by Norway and
Sweden. I don't want to annoy my Norwegian and Swedish friends, so I
will blame it on the Danes, who say "ludefisk." I have only one Danish
friend, and I hope she won't clobber me for indicting her homeland in
this matter. ;-)
Subject: Re: Lutefisk: its national origin?
From: nautico-ga on 04 Sep 2003 13:16 PDT
No guts, huh? Can't take a stand? Sheesh. Make your answer official <sigh>.
Subject: Re: Lutefisk: its national origin?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 04 Sep 2003 13:46 PDT
I'd be glad to prepare an official answer if I can remain gutless. 

There doesn't seem to be any definitive proof on the national origin
of lutefisk.

If you like, I can gather some speculations together, and tie them up
in a snappy package. Of course, the package will smell like lutefisk.
Subject: Re: Lutefisk: its national origin?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 05 Sep 2003 15:34 PDT
Thank you for the five-star rating and the generous tip.

I always enjoy your questions, and that's no lye! 


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