Informant: I grew up in a family that was part German, on my mother’s side, and part Swedish and Norwegian on my dad’s side. My great-grandparents had traveled to the United States, and my grandparents were born in the United States, but there were still a lot of family traditions from Scandinavia and Germany and… the ones that really stand out in my mind are the Scandinavian side of things, more Sweden and Norway. My dad especially was pretty connected to those kinds of traditions. One I remember vividly – because it was always brought up as a threat – was the idea of eating lutefisk. Lutefisk is a dried fish, except it isn’t dried, it’s kind of… gelatinous, in a really disgusting way. And it’s a fermented fish, so it gets steeped in lye, which is also not something you think should be ingested, and yet it’s a delicacy! And even better, it’s such a delicacy that it’s saved for the holidays! So, you know, bringing out the Christmas lutefisk was something that was supposed to be revered, but I could never get into it. And then it became a running thing in my family that you’d be made to eat lutefisk if you weren’t behaving to anticipation, or what people were expecting of you.
The informant is the interviewer’s mother, who grew up in the suburbs of Seattle, Washington. As described in the piece above, the informant’s family adhered to many Scandinavian and German traditions, some of which have been in our family for generations. Lutefisk has remained a threat as the years went on, and I have the same opinions as the informant does. I personally don’t understand the appeal of the dish, but I recognize that many members of my extended family in both America and Scandinavia love it. Even though I’m not personally a fan of the recipe, I do appreciate that it keeps my family in touch more with our traditions and history from Scandinavia.