Al Batt: In Minnesota, it’s lutefisk and lefse, ya sure, you betcha!

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

The day had been nearly copacetic.

Al Batt

I walked indoors in a shopping mall because of the wet weather outdoors.

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Bob Dylan had predicted it when he wrote, “And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”

I like Dylan, but sometimes his needle becomes stuck. He’s a songwriter/singer and a crack meteorologist. He not only predicted the weather but he sang this musical question, “Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?”

Dun dun duuun! I met a fellow walker, a man wearing a sweatshirt carrying the message, “Legalize lutefisk.” Lutefisk has many followers. I’ve seen otherwise serious folks wearing funny sweatshirts reading, “I survived lutefisk,” “Take the risk — eat lutefisk,” “You’d pillage too if all you had to eat was lutefisk,” “Lutefisk: the piece of cod that passes all understanding,” and

“Make lutefisk great again.” Each one a noble effort to turn a frown upside down. I think I’m going to create one that reads, “Lutefisk? Yeah, no or what?”

When it comes to lutefisk, nobody is on mute. For some folks, overhearing the word “lutefisk” is like seeing your doctor carrying bagpipes. Neither one is easy to hear. I love church potlucks and their scrumptious soup and pie suppers, but my fill line for lutefisk is mighty low. It’s all about appetite allotment and I’m more into the pastabilities of foods like gnocchi. I asked the man wearing the “Legalize lutefisk” sweatshirt, which lutefisk feed he liked the best. It shocked me to learn he’d never sampled the buttery desiccated whitefish. I shouldn’t have been surprised since his sweatshirt didn’t bear a single butter stain.

“I’ve been watching what I eat,” he said, as an excuse.

I admitted I’d been watching what I ate, too, as I’d found I didn’t spill so much that way. I considered saying, “You have to earn the right to wear that sweatshirt,” but changed my mind and said, “Eating lutefisk is interesting.”

I advised him to give lutefisk a try and become an influencer by eating it drenched in ketchup. For the lutefisk feeds in October, people began lining up right after the 4th of July parade. Lutefisk is the Taylor Swift of Scandinavian delicacies.

Family from North Carolina came for a visit and what was the first thing they did when they got here? They made lefse. They didn’t bring lefse from North Carolina because bringing lefse to Minnesota would be like carrying coals to Newcastle. Newcastle is a city in England where coal was mined. It’d be like bringing sand to the beach. Lefse, a soft Norwegian potato flatbread, runs around with lutefisk. Rice pudding sometimes hangs out with them. When it comes to pudding, rice is nice. Lefse is a complete meal — potato, bread, dessert (with butter, table sugar, brown sugar and/or cinnamon) and an edible napkin. Mom advised eating the lefse first to make sure we’d have room for it. I’ve even enjoyed it with peanut butter and have found the perfect lefse is the one that’s on my plate.

I believe eating lutefisk is one of the seven habits of people who successfully eat lutefisk. Some eat it because it’s easier to eat it than not eat it. A guy told me it amazed him that neither McDonald’s nor school lunch programs served lutefisk. He said his doctor told him to eat more lutefisk. I must have looked dubious, as he added, “Actually, my doctor told me I should eat less fast food, but I knew what he meant.”

He loved lutefisk feeds and wanted to sleep at the table between seatings. He’d have a nap and then eat a second meal. That was his plan. He’d do it in a civilized way. He’d swallow the last bit of lutefisk on his plate before slumping silently with his head down and a smile on his face. It’s good to have goals, but what about his fellow diners? He said they wouldn’t have time to worry about him because they needed to eat the lutefisk they’d paid good money for.

It’s lutefisk and lefse, ya sure, you betcha!

Just remember, pass the lefse my way and the lutefisk the other way.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.