Nordic Lodge offers dinner with ‘lye fish’

The lodge is hosting its annual Lutefisk Meatball Dinner to share Nordic culture with the community.

For the fourth year, the Nordic Lodge is offering Whidbey residents a taste of Northern Europe with one of the most iconic delicacies from the region: lutefisk.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, the lodge is hosting its annual Lutefisk & Meatball Dinner, an event that serves to share Nordic culture with the local community, but also helps raise funds for the lodge.

Lutefisk, meaning “lye fish,” is a traditional Norwegian recipe that is consumed in Scandinavia and other Nordic countries. In the United States, many lodges and Lutheran churches offer lutefisk dinners around Christmas time to celebrate Nordic culture.

The dish consists of dried cod brined in lye, soaked to remove the resulting caustic solution and steamed until it flakes. The result is a gelatinous dish with a strong odor which has gained a negative reputation among many. But for people like Brian Petersen, a member of the lodge, not only is it delicious, it brings him back to his childhood.

“Either you like it, or you don’t,” he said.

He described the taste of the fish as mild, saying it’s the melted butter, white sauce and bacon bits that make it so good.

For many, lutefisk is a big deal, with people going as far as touring as many lodges as possible to experience lutefisk dinners, Petersen said.

Petersen grew up in Iowa and was raised in a Norwegian and Danish family, where it was tradition to eat lutefisk around Christmas. He grew up hearing tales and jokes on the dish’s nasty reputation.

According to a tale, a group of Vikings attacked their Viking neighbors who had hung their cod to dry on racks. The invaders burned the fish, but the rain put out the fire and led to the fish soaking in a puddle of water and ash for months. Months later, some Vikings found the cod and feasted on it.

The joke is so popular among people of Nordic descent, that there are T-shirts available for sale online with the saying “You’d pillage too if all you had to eat was lutefisk.”

At the lodge, those who don’t like fish may opt for the Swedish meatballs and gravy, which will be served with boiled potatoes. Later, guests will be served riskrem with lingonberry topping, a traditional Scandinavian dessert, and a side of Danish cookies.

The event also includes a Nordic bake sale that is open to anyone.

Community members who want to be part of this experience must buy tickets by Thursday, Jan. 18, choosing to be seated at noon, 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. Takeout is also an option. People ages 15 and up pay $35, while children pay $20.

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