No Lutefisk for Me

As a just-out-of-college-kid reporter at a statewide agricultural newspaper in Wisconsin, I was assigned to write the lutefisk story for 1984. This involved travelling to a farmstead in western Wisconsin on a snowy December day to interview a farmer who had a unique recipe for homemade lutefisk.


I got lost, temporarily, on the way to his farm. There were no Google Maps or Mapquest at the time. These were the days of county plat books and folded paper state maps. But eventually I found the place and the farmer didn’t mind that I was late.

I interviewed him about his lutefisk-making, an integral part of his Norwegian heritage. He described how he acquired the fish from his supplier, soaked it in lye (yes, lye) for a time, drained it, then placed it into a clean white pillowcase, tied it shut with twine, hopped onto his ATV, and drove out to the heifer pasture. There he dropped the fish bag into the heifers’ water tank, anchored securely to the side of the tank so he could retrieve it later, following its requisite freshwater bath.

After the interview he needed to check on how well the soaking was progressing, so I rode with him on the back of his ATV out to the pasture. I watched as he strode over to the water tank, found the twine, and proudly hoisted the fish bag for me to see.

I don’t remember any other details of his recipe; perhaps I’ve blocked them out of my mind over the intervening 31 years. Nevertheless, to this day I will not eat lutefisk. Can you blame me?

Laura Sternweis

P.S. Judging from the Nordic Recipe Archive, my memories of the steps in lutefisk-making are fairly spot on.


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