The annual Sons of Norway Lutefisk Dinner is always a popular event. File photo

Sons of Norway’s annual Lutefisk Dinner lives on

Event is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday marks another Norwegian tradition in the Viking City, the annual Lutefisk Dinner put on by the Sons of Norway for over 20 years.

Attendees will partake in Norway’s unique lutefisk fish, which is rehydrated dried cod. Meatballs are also available along with other traditional foods such as boiled potatoes, mushy peas, pickled beets, white sauce, bacon drippings, lefse, krumkake, ice cream and coffee.

Due to the recent uptick in COVID-19 rates, this is the first year SON took paid reservations in advance. SON publicity director Lizbeth Doving said there will be four seatings, and each will be 100 guests, which is one-third of the room’s capacity.

SON will follow Kitsap Public Health District protocols such as masks required unless seated, volunteers wearing gloves and masks, and tables being sanitized between seatings. Folks will purchase their seating time online before the meal; $32 for adults and $15 for children ages 10 and younger. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The first Lutefisk Dinner put on by SON was in November of 2000. Before that, there was a codfish derby and ball held on a Saturday in February, said Sherry White, past SON president and current board member.

But then the number of codfish started to dwindle and eventually not enough were caught in the derby to have an annual dinner and ball. That resulted in the change to a Lutefisk Dinner instead.

“People come from all over Washington and even Canada for the dinner,” Doving said.

Doving said Poulsbo used to have two annual lutefisk dinners but First Lutheran Church has permanently canceled its event. She also said Slippery Pig Brewery was going to hold one but ended up canceling, leaving SON as the lone lutefisk dinner organizer locally.

Traditionally, lutefisk is cod that’s hung to dry in the open air for preservation then stored for eating during winter, Doving said. The dried fish becomes as thin and stiff as a piece of wooden board. When reconstituted with a lye-water solution, it can inflate up to eight times its dried weight, a process that requires at least a week to complete.

SON purchases pre-reconstituted fish from New Day Fisheries in Port Townsend and prepares it in its commercial kitchen. The fish is cooked in boiling water for about a minute a pound. It’s then ready to serve.

“Always cut off the dark-colored bits of the cod so it’s mostly white/colorless and tender when it goes in to cook,” SON president Paul Anunson said. “We bag the lutefisk in cheesecloth in like-sized pieces so it cooks the same. I believe we cook eight-pound bags of it at a time. Lucky for us, it’s prepared, rinsed, and ready to cook by the time we get it from New Day Fisheries.”

Doving added: “Cooked right, it is pretty stable and tasty with butter and lefse. Cooked incorrectly it is like jelly and falls apart.”

While the fish is still popular in Scandinavian countries, far more of it is consumed in the U.S. by Scandinavian-Americans in Lutheran churches and fraternal lodges, said SON cultural director Colin Kuester. In Norway, he said it’s “traditional” in the sense that Jell-O is traditional in the U.S.

“Yes, everyone’s had it, but it seems dated as part of a modern meal,” Kuester said. “Lutefisk is universally known and widely available in supermarket freezer cases at Christmas time, but it’s no longer widely consumed as a formal Christmas dinner. It’s regaining momentum as a specialty nostalgia food, and up to 20 percent of Norwegians now eat it annually, typically sometime around Christmas.”

Kurt Serwold of Poulsbo has been cooking lutefisk for 30 years. His grandfather started cooking it at First Lutheran Church; then his dad and pal Loyal Edgren were in charge of the lutefisk, and now Edgren’s son Brian, along with Serwold, will be leads of the lutefisk at SON. Doving said the annual dinner helps promote and preserve the heritage and culture of Norway, adding it takes many hours and about 70 SON volunteers to carry out the event.

“My parents immigrated to San Francisco in the 1950s, and while I had heard of lutefisk, I did not try it until I was an adult,” Doving said. “Our traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner was pork. Lutefisk was always joked about, and it certainly sounded strange, but I loved it the first time I tasted the stuff. Maybe because it was covered in bacon bits.

“It could also be that we kids were forced to eat everything on our plate so now I will eat pretty much anything. I’ve heard it referred to as “poor man’s lobster” when you splash on some melted butter, and I’m gonna agree with that.”

Sons of Norway volunteers get ready to serve food for the annual Lutefisk Dinner. Courtesy photo

Sons of Norway volunteers get ready to serve food for the annual Lutefisk Dinner. Courtesy photo

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