Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
Tomorrow night begins the eighteenth annual Fireside Reading Series hosted by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library at the Hamline Midway Library. The series features six weeks of readings by acclaimed Minnesota authors.
The events kick off with historian Larry Millet and the latest in his renowned mystery series, The Magic Bullet: A Locked Room Mystery Featuring Shadwell Rafferty and Sherlock Holmes, and conclude on February 18 with Diane Wilson, author of Beloved Child: A Dakota Way of Life.
Was there an e-reader under your tree this week? Amazon announced that over 4 million Kindles were sold in December, and analysts predicted high sales of the iPad 2 over the holidays. Whether you’re a brand-new or veteran e-reader, we have a deal to help you load up your device and get reading.
Perhaps because I’m not from Minnesota, I am a bit obsessed by people’s willingness to eat lutefisk in an age when refrigeration is available, and so I was very happy to see this new video posted by MPR about the Norsefest in Madison, Minnesota, Lutefisk Capital of the USA. While I love fish, shellfish, raw fish, oysters, and clams, I have not been able to get myself to try lutefisk.
As one woman preparing the Norsefest meal says in the video,
“A good piece of fish is flakey like when you get really good walleye after it’s been cooked … A bad piece of fish would be if it’s like jelly or, excuse the expression, like snot.”
According to the book Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land by Kathleen Stokker, the widespread eating of lutefisk grew out of Norway’s adherence to Advent fasting, which continued even after Lutheranism was adopted as the official state religion.
Legend credits the origin of the recipe to the Vikings (from Keeping Christmas):
“Why lye? Legend attributes this to the Vikings. What is no doubt an apocryphal account reports that while raiding a certain fishing village, the Vikings burned down some wooden racks on which cod was drying. When one of the inhabitants poured water over the fire to douse it, the fish was left soaking in a solution of ashes and water–that is, lye. Poking through the ashes days later, villagers noticed that the once dried and hardened fish now appeared fresh. Rinsing and boiling it, they discovered that–at least by some accounts–it was edible.”
One of the highlights of Norsefest is the lutefisk eating contest, also deemed a “talent competition,” which makes perfect sense to me.
You can read more about the Norwegian history of eating lutefisk in this Keeping Christmas excerpt.
Sunday, December 13, is Saint Lucia’s Day, the day that oldest daughters in Swedish and Swedish American homes don a crown of burning candles and deliver saffron buns known as lussekatter to the family while singing the beautiful Santa Lucia.
The original Lucia, patron saint of the blind whose name means “light,” was martyred in Sicily in AD 304 when she refused to marry a pagan. Medieval accounts hold that her eyes were gouged out with a fork before she was burned at the stake, and she is often depicted holding her eyes on a golden plate. The day is the longest night of the year on the old Julian calendar.
Battery-powered electric crowns are now available.
To keep with the theme of “there’s a chill in the air,” we turn to the MHS Press book by Kathleen Stokker, Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land, which is filled with fascinating folk-healing rituals and natural home remedies remembered fondly by midwestern Norwegian Americans. Which cure for winter’s common cold and sore throat would you choose?
“For a chest cold Mom rubbed my chest with goose grease and would place wool or flannel over it.” (Ester Hegg, born 1913)
“A home remedy for a cough or sore throat was to rub your neck with camphor oil and fasten a man’s woolen sock around your neck.” (Ella Grunewald, born 1916)
“I remember the standard remedy for a serious chest cold or chills and fever. Two extra quilts were added to your bed. Then the potion was mixed: the juice of a half lemon, a generous amount of brandy; then the mug was filled with boiling water. A little sugar and a sprinkling of nutmeg smoothed out the flavor. It was best drunk when already dressed in flannel pajamas. The warm coziness set in almost immediately, and the sweat began to ooze out of your pores. Invariably you felt much better in the morning.” (Judeen Johnson, born 1925)
Beret Hagebak outside her sod house in western Minnesota. MHS Collections, photo by Hugh J. Chalmers, from Remedies and Rituals by Kathleen Stokker.