Since the holidays are rolling around, conversation among the extended family has inevitably moved toward preparations for various celebrations. My dad and I joined my grandma for dinner on Friday night since my mom was away at a retreat. We talked about the same things we always talk about, and every good Midwestern family should talk about: food, work, and family. Aas it always does this time of year, the conversation turned to that traditional Scandinavian delicacy, lutefisk . Christmas Eve, the day we all had to prepare ourselves to reckon with the galatinous fishy blob, was only a month and a half away. We all knew that lutefisk is cod, or at least it used to be cod. My grandmother and I were sure that the cod was preserved with lye and then dried until it was stiff as a board. It would later be reconstituted with water to soften it and remove the lye, thus making it edible, if not tasty. My dad countered that lutefisk was dried and salted to preserve it, then later reconstituted with lye. The dispute was over the use of lye in the preservation/reconstitution process. We agreed to disagree (as a side note not particularly relevant to the debate, my dad insisted that dried cod, destined to become lutefisk, would be propped up on the sides of small country stores for dogs to pee on. I don't know what to attribute the recurrence of this claim to). As usual, my research confirmed that my dad was right. The lye is used to reconstitute the dried cod and remove the salt, making it edible and somewhat "fresh" looking. There is a whole separate debate on the repulsiveness vs. tastiness of lutefisk, but that will have to wait for another post. One can only handle so much fun in one day.
A lutefisk drying rack.