The History of Lutefisk

An article found on whatscookingamerica.netLutefisk_01

It is said that about half the Norwegians who immigrated to America came in order to escape the hated lutefisk and the other half came to spread the gospel of lutefisk’s wonderfulness.

– Norwegian-American saying

Lutefisk History

Lutefisk (pronounced lewd-uh-fisk) is dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution for several days to rehydrate it.  It is rinsed with cold water to remove the lye, then boiled or baked, and then served with butter, salt, and pepper.

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The finished lutefisk usually is the consistency of Jello.  It is also called lyefish, and in the United States, Norwegian-Americans traditionally serve it for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In many Norwegian homes, lutefisk takes the place of the Christmas turkey.  In Minnesota and Wisconsin, you can find lutefisk in local food stores and even at some restaurants. It is a food that you either love or hate, and, as some people say, “Once a year is probably enough!”

During the fall in Wisconsin, people watch their local newspapers for announcements of lutefisk suppers, which are usually held in Norwegian churches.  Usually every Norwegian church will host at least one lutefisk supper between October and the end of the year.  The dinners have become so popular that lovers of this special cod dish drive great distances, and these are not just people of Scandinavian descent.

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The history of lutefisk dates back to the Vikings.  On one occasion, according to one legend, plundering Vikings burned down a fishing village, including the wooden racks with drying cod.  The returning villagers poured water on the racks to put out the fire.  Ashes covered the dried fish, and then it rained.  The fish buried in the ashes in the ashes thus became soaked in a lye slush.  Later the villagers were surprised to see that the dried fish had changed to what looked like fresh fish.  They rinsed the fish in water to remove the lye and make it edible, and then boiled it.  The story is that one particularly brave villager tasted the fish and declared it “not bad.”

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Norwegian-Americans believe that lutefisk was brought by their ancestors on the ships when they came to America, and that it was all they had to eat.  Today the fish is celebrated in ethnic and religious celebrations and is linked with hardship and courage.


In general I love traditional Norwegian food, both the food eaten during celebrating Christmas and the traditional food eaten the year round. Having said as much that love does not embrace lutefisk, but if it is served with enough crispy bacon and mushy peas as it usually is here in Norway I do eat it.

Ted
Winking smile

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Christmas in Norway

Jul or jol ([jʉːɽ]) is the term used for the Christmas holiday season in Scandinavia and parts of Scotland. Originally, “jul” was the name of a month in the old Germanic calendar. The concept of “jul” was a period of time rather than a specific event prevailing in Scandinavia. In modern times, “Jul” is a general time stretching from mid-November to mid-January, with Christmas and the week up to New Year as the highlight. The modern English yule and yuletide derive from this term.

The term “Jul” is common throughout Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Scotland and the Faroe Islands.

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Whereas the start of “jul” proper is announced by the chiming of church bells throughout the country in the afternoon of 24 December, it is more accurate to describe the season as an eight-week event. It consists of five phases: Advent, Julaften, Romjul, Nyttår, and The End of Christmas, very often with Epiphany, the thirteenth day of Christmas, as the final day of the season. From the original beginning on Christmas Day, the custom of Julebord has spread to the entire season and beyond, often beginning well in advance of December.

The modern day celebration is largely based on the Church year and has retained several pre-Reformation and pre-Christian elements.

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The central event in Scandinavia is Christmas Eve (julaften), when the main Christmas meal is served and gifts are exchanged. This might be due to the old Germanic custom of counting time in nights, not days (e.g. “forthnight”), as it holds for other holidays like Midsummer Eve (Jonsok, lit. “Wake of St. John”) and St. Olavs Mass (Olsok, lit. “Wake of St. Olav”), with the main celebration on the eve of the official Church day.

Norse Roots

“Jul” or “Jol” are cognates of Norse “Jòlnir” or “Ýlir”, which are alternate names of Odin, although the root itself is debated. Jul was celebrated during the second moon (from new moon to new moon) of the winter half of the year – roughly from the new moon of November to the new moon of December. At this time, the animals for slaughter were the fattest, flour had been processed, all the work of autumn was completed, and it was time to celebrate.

The time of celebration has varied. According to written sources such as the legislation of Gulaþing, it was mandatory for farmers to have a beer drinking party with at least three farmers attending. If a farmer was so far away from his neighbours that this was difficult, he still had to brew as much beer as if he had been taking part of such a party. The beer should be ready by November 1.

Yule

The tradition of Yule Ale and “drinking Jul” is symbolized by a drinking horn on December 25 on the Runic calendar, with an upside-down drinking horn depicted on January 13, symbolizing that the ale should be finished by then.

By the wording of the legislation, there are two celebrations where beer drinking was mandatory. The first was a form of thanksgiving (where at least three farmers attended), while the second was a smaller party for the family.

The old tradition of brewing Yule ale and drinking in honor of the Æsir, friends and kinfolk also remained in the time following the Christianization, with the law demanding people to brew enough as well as strong enough, but people were now to drink in honor of Christ and the virgin Mary instead.

The figure of the mischievous but gift-bearing Norse nisse, a mythological creature associated with the Winter solstice in Scandinavian folklore, is a white-bearded, red-wearing ancestral spirit also known as Julenissen (Jul spirit), which has been integrated with the figure of Sinterklaas to comprise the modern-day figure of Santa Claus. Like the cookies traditionally left for “Santa Claus” today, it was customary to leave a bowl of rice porridge with butter for the Jul spirit, in gratitude.[6] The food represented a sacramental meal. Sacramental meals were formally called a blót—in this particular instance, yuleblót or winterblót.

Food

Culinary traditions vary regionally. In Northern and Western Norway, pinnekjøtt (ribs of mutton which are steamed, salted and dried, and some places also smoked) is a common dish, whereas Lutefisk and cod are popular in Southern Norway. In Eastern Norway, pork rib roast is common, usually served with medisterkaker and medisterpølser (dumplings and sausages made of minced pork meat). Turkey has recently made its way into the variety of cuisines enjoyed during Jul.

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Other traditional foods are eaten at Første Juledags Frokost, a Christmas Day luncheon where the household serves all available delicacies in a grand buffet. Families might serve several kinds of meat such as ham, fenalaar (ham of lamb), cooked cured leg of lamb, pickled pigs’ trotters, head cheese, mutton roll, pork roll, or ox tongue; and several kinds of fish such as smoked salmon, gravlax, rakfisk, and pickled herring. There will also be a range of cheeses and various types of jam. After the meal, tradition prescribes serving seven kinds of julebakst, pastries and coffee breads associated with the holiday. Gingerbread and gingerbread houses are commonly decorated with sugar frosting. In some instances, gingerbread cookies are used for decorating windows as well as the Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve, many families eat risengrynsgrøt, a type of rice porridge that includes a single almond, scalded of its skin to leave it white. Whomever gets the almond wins a prize, usually a marzipan pig.

Brewing is closely associated with the preparations for jul, and most Norwegian breweries release a traditional Christmas beer, which is darker, stronger and more flavorful than the common Norwegian lagers. Breweries also produce a special soda, known as julebrus. Aquavit is also commonly served as a digestif to accompany the heavy, often fatty meals.

Julebukk

julebukk

“Julebukk,” a Norwegian noun, translates to “Yule Goat”. Today it is commonly known of as a goat figurine made out of straw, created in the beginning of December often used as a Christmas ornament. The Yule Goat’s oldest representation is that of Thorr’s magical Goats, which would lead him through the night sky. The Yule Goat was also a spirit that would protect the house during Yuletide and it was tradition to sacrifice a goat to the Gods and accompanying spirits during the time span between the Winter Solstice “Winter Night” and the New Year called “Romjul”. It was during Romul that a goat or Julebukk was sacrificed, adults then donned guises to personify the Julebukk. Animal masks and skins, commonly goats and horses were donned in an activity called “hoodening”. Participants would parade from house to house, disguising their voices, singing, offering spiritual protection and warnings. The group would receive small amounts of money, food and drink in exchange for the blessing they offered.

Text from Wikipedia

Must Eats In Norway – Part 3 – Egg & Bacon with Fried Potatoes at Teddy’s Softbar

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Teddy’s Softbar in Oslo opened in 1958, and the fifties interiors are largely intact. Teddy’s originally served soft drinks, ice-cream and the like. Today alcoholic beverage are the base of the operation, but they also serve food. The last few decades Teddy’s have enjoyed guests with connections to Oslo’s rock scene and other aspects of the city’s cultural life. From time to time concerts are arranged in the small bar.

From an interview with the owner done by Cecilie Asker for the newspaper Aftenposten:

What is the most played song on the jukebox?

Numerous copies of the Herman’s Hermits’ single “No Milk Today” has been worn out over the years. It has been played so much that at times it has been banned from the jukebox. For example, it is not in there now.

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What Is the most popular drink?

Currently it will have to be Gin & Tonic, but previously Spitfire was very popular among the customers. Drink trends come and go, but beer is always the undisputed winner, anyway.

What Is the most prominent persons to visit Teddy’s?

Back in the late seventies when the place still really was a soft bar my dad got a call from a man who wondered if there was a lot of guests attending at the moment. He could confirm that it was not. A few minutes later a large black car rolled up outside. It was the King’s grandchildren who’d fancied a milkshake.

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Of All the well known faces who have entered through the doors, who has been most satisfied?

Ike Turner stopped for lunch here. He claimed that we made the world’s best BLT. He was so pleased that he went into the kitchen and kissed my mother’s hand, since it was she who had cooked the meal.

Which Dish on the menu is the most popular?

Egg & bacon, with fried potatoes. It is also probably the dish that has been the longest on the current menu.

The Story of The Norwegian Brown Cheese

brown cheese_01

This is how the Gudbrand’s Valley cheese was born approximately
150 years ago

Long Traditions

The brown cheese is a distinctive Norwegian product with a long tradition. Sweet, rich, a slight taste of caramel and an unshakeable place in Norwegian hearts for generations.

The brown cheese originates from Solbråsetra in the Gudbrand’s Valley

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Referrences to whey cheeses was mentioned already in 1646  in Christer Jenssøn’s Glossary as “quite lovely” but brown cheese as we know it today was born in 1863 on Solbråsetra.

Rowdy Goats

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It started with some rowdy goats. The farm owner on Solbråsetra thought his goats made too much mischief, and would therefore not have them on his farm.

Anne Hov mixed cream and whey

So in the absence of goat milk, the farmer’s daughter Anne Hov attempted to make cheese by mixing cream with the whey mixture, instead of goat’s milk.

That using valuable cream to make cheese instead of butter, was by some seen as a waste, but it was only until they tasted the results. It tasted lovely!

The Gudbrand’s Valley mixed cheese

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When Anne Hov a few years later married a man owning his own farm, she developed the recipe further. Unlike her father Anne’s husband found that goats were great animals, so this time she perfected the recipe by adding a little goat’s milk as well as cream.

Anne Hov’s new brown cheese recipe was a hit and quickly spread to neighboring farms, and within a few years the rest of the country was talking about  the gorgeous “Gudbrand’s Valley mixed cheese”.

The most Norwegian of the Norwegian

In 1908 the first industrial steam dairy making brown cheese was built and today, 150 years later the brown cheese represents the most Norwegian of the Norwegian.

So thanks to Anne Hov! And thank God for rowdy goats.

Text and images from tine.no

Norway Celebrates The First Ever Banana Arriving In The Country

first bananas arriving

This photo with the title as above was among the photos in a post called “These 60 Rare Photos Will Destroy Everything You Knew About The Past” once posted on Distractify. But honestly, I know we are a small country with merely 5 million citizens and even fewer back when the photo was taken, still I think you would need more than 12 people to call an event a national celebration.

On the other hand, a song from just after WWII called “Når det kommer en båt med bananer” (When a boat with bananas arrives) is still played on the radio from time to time, so yes, we do love bananas in Norway – Ted  😉

Gold Bread / Gullbrød

A traditional baking recipe from the south of Norway
found on jbl.no

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traditional badge norwegian_flatThe recipe insist on calling this bread, but with all the sugar the recipe calls for I think it would be more fair to call it a cake. Bread or cake, it looks delicious – Ted

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Dravle from Kvinnherad / Dravle fra Kvinnherad

A traditional recipe found on bygdekvinnelaget.no438_Dravle fra Kvinnherad_post

Dravle is traditional party food from Kvinnherad in the western part of Norway. Recipes vary a lot from place to place, but it was and is common to serve dravle with milk cakes and potato cakes.

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Must Eats In Norway – Part 2

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On Norway’s largest lake Mjøsa you can take a trip with Skibladner, the world’s oldest steam paddler in regular traffic. You can get all the information you need about the routes here and about the ship here.

Well, enough about that, this is a blog about food. In the link about the ship you will have found that Skibladner has an excellent restaurant and if you ever find yourself there, don’t even open the menu. When the waiter come to take your order show him or her that you are a person in touch with culture and tradition and smile and simply say: “The traditional salmon menu with cucumber salad and strawberries for dessert please.” You will never regret it – Ted

Must Eats In Norway – Part 1

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At “Frognerseteren” in the hills outside Oslo city which you can easily reach by the subway system you will find Restaurant “Finstua” and “Seterstua” Café. The Café is open both summer and winter and opens every day at 11:00. The café has self service and no table reservation. If the weather allows you can enjoy the spectacular view of the Oslo city and fjord from the sunny terrace, while the café is warm and cosy in colder weather.

Their restaurant may have prizes a little too steep for your tourist budget but forget that, what you really need to enjoy at “Frognerseteren” is the café’s magnificent and famous apple cake. And take a tip from one who have eaten that apple cake more times than he can remember, forget the tea, forget the coffee, that apple cake should be enjoyed with the café’s delicious cocoa with cream – Ted