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Ferry van Eeuwen






Lutefisk or lutfisk

Pronounce as:  LOO-tuh-FIHSK

A Scandinavian specialty made with unsalted dried cod fish. The age-old preparation method is to soak the dried cod in regularly changed cold water for a period of eight days. The cod is then soaked for two days in a mixture of water and potash lye, after which it's soaked for two more days in fresh water. (Thankfully, for fans of this dish, ready-to-cook lutefisk is commercially available.) The final step is simmering the fish for 10 to 15 minutes, just until it becomes translucent. Just before serving, lutefisk is sprinkled with ALLSPICE, salt and white pepper. It's accompanied with white  Béchamel sauce and, typically, boiled potatoes. Overcooked lutefisk is like Jell-O and hard to digest. But properly cooked, with plenty of butter, it's "nice, white and flaky,"  Bye the way, there are hundreds of recipes, all differing a little bit.

The natural beauty of Norway. A view on a gletscher.

Other have different opinions of this typical Norwegian dish such as: Lutefisk is an infamous Norwegian dish composed of fish soaked in lye: There is a very funny story of an American who is more or less forced to indulge into the dish when visiting with Norwegian friends. Go to:   Lye is Sodium Hydroxide (Beads) or Potassium Hydroxide (Liquids & Flakes). Anyway it is the stuff which you add to animal and/or vegetable fats and turns it into soap. The Lye beads are also called caustic soda which will clean you clotted kitchen piping in no time. The beads are strewn into the kitchen sink's drain and then the faucet is opened after which all hell breaks lose inside the drain pipes. Be sure to wear protective glasses! Yes, you guessed right. The lye turns the fat attached to the arteries of you kitchen drain pipes into soft soap which is swept away with the water stream. Simple and very effective. The Chinese still use the liquid form in their traditional Moon cakes. In Chinese stores bottles of lye water can be found amongst the other groceries. They also soak lotus seeds in lye and after a little while the seed's tough jacket is loosened. Neat trick.

You can make you own lye by filling a plastic container, also called hopper,  with hardwood (in the States hickory was very popular)  ashes. Pour half or whole  buckets of water, depending how much ashes you collected, over the ashes and repeat this process as required. The lye is drained via a small faucet in the bottom of the container into a vessel of some kind. There are many ways and recipes to do this. In the old days hollowed tree trunks of about 3 meters were stuffed with ashes and propped almost horizontally. A 5 degree slant or so would cause the water poured in in one end to crawl through the ashes and come out as lye on the other end. In rainy climates a rain water collector would feed the tree trunk, thus creating a fully automatic production system. These days you could use plastic rain drain pipes instead of the tree stump. The simplest method however is to buy it in a store!

Back to the good old Lutefisk. One theory of how the Vikings already long ago discovered this delicacy is that when once they were on one of their many rampages the women of a conquered tribe tried to poison the fearless warriors with cod fish cooked in lye. How clever the plan was, a sure killer they happily thought and what a worthy revenge it would make. Their enemies probably twisting in agony a short while after dinner, screaming for help and mercy. However, the Vikings liked it and kept asking for more, much to the distress of the rampaged villagers. In fact, after chopping off a few heads to extract the secret ingredient, they took the recipe back home in triumph. I myself like this simple straightforward theory.  Uh, by the way, Columbus navigated to the Americas on Norwegian charts as you all will probably know by now. Enjoy!