Sunday, December 28, 2008

Culinary Curiosities

“Well, we tried the lutefisk trick and the raccoons went away, but now we have got a family of Norwegians living under our house.”

Nothing, aside from perhaps language, ties us to our culture more than food. In an instant, food can bring back the comforts of childhood. It’s soothing and can stimulate a flood a memories like nothing else.

In my family, around the holiday season, we were inundated with goodies, many of them Norwegian treats that we rarely ate at other times of the year: lefse, rosettes, krumkake, fattigman, almond rice pudding… foods, at which the mere mention, make me salivate. These treats strengthened our bond with the other Scandinavian brethren in the area with whom we made much merriment as Christmas neared and during the days of festing that followed. But of all that bonds Norwegians, nothing bonds us more, than lutefisk. It is one of those dishes that every single Norsk has a strong reaction too. Whether we love it or hate it, we do so with passion. In my family, it was not on the menu, although I have kin who rave about it, and perhaps the emphasis should be on the word, “rave.” Personally, I side with a Norwegian friend who put it like this, “Lutefisk is not food we actually eat, it’s a test to see if outsiders really, really want to marry into our family. How much do you love my child? Eat this lye soaked fish to prove it.”

For those of you who have never heard of lutefisk, you did not just misunderstand. It is indeed lye soaked fish or more precisely, dried cod soaked in lye and then boiled. That’s right, sodium hydroxide, you know the stuff you use to clean drains, which will burn you chemically if you come in contact with it, and will explode when in contact with aluminum. It is also a major ingredient in soap. So what does this delicacy actually taste like? Well, when all is said and done, the fish has a translucent jelly like appearance and doesn’t taste much of anything. It certainly isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, although I do question its safety. The taste mainly comes from what you eat with lutefisk. Usually it’s drenched (and I mean flooded) in melted butter, and then often additionally topped with bacon. Boiled potatoes and stewed peas usually also make an honoured appearance beside this delicacy.

For those of you still morbidly curious or intrigued, check out the following videos.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and your loved ones the happiest of holidays and a new year full of peace and love. Merry Christmas.

These pictures are from Christmas on Baker Street earlier in December. The tradition is to have part of the main street shut down. One of the local supermarkets provides food and hot chocolate. Various groups perform carols and other Christmas music. Animals are brought in from a local farm...I'm not sure whether all the animals are babies or just miniatures, in any case, they delight the children almost more than anything else, especially those who get to ride the donkey.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Military Musings

Do you know what astonished me most in the world? The inability of force to create anything. In the long run, the sword is always beaten by the spirit. Soldiers usually win battles and generals get credit for them. You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war. If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin pricks that proceed cannon shots.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfection, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, a complex of wave forms and resonances which is absolutely individual and unique, and yet which connects us to everything in the universe.

~George Leonard

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pickled Ginger

I did a little experimentation with my canning this summer and strayed just a bit beyond the regular tomatoes and jams. I ventured into the domain of pickled ginger. I tried just a couple jars as I didn't quite know how it would turn out or if I would even like it, but overall I'm against the expensive pink stuff that's sold in stores, mainly because of the red food dye...I try to avoid anything with dyes or other chemical additives and too much sugar. In any case, according to all who tried the goods, the recipe was a huge success and just perfect for California rolls. So I've made up some more jars as gifts for some special friends. If you'd like to try your hand at making's really's the recipe:

10 ounces of fresh ginger peeled (I simply guessed on this, do enough to fill two small jars or double the recipe for five)
2/3 C rice wine vinegar
1/2 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Put about 4 cups water on to boil. Shave the ginger lengthwise into paper-thin slices with a vegetable peeler or mandolin. Blanch it in the boiling water for about one minute. Drain and put into jars (the water can be saved for tea or broth if you like). Put the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pot and gently heat to dissolve the sugar. Pour into the jars to cover the ginger. Prepare lids and process in a hot water bath to make them seal. If you don't want to be bothered with sealing the jars, you can close the containers and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to combine before using. This will keep in your refrigerator for up to a month. This little jar definitely carries punch and will keep you warm this winter.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sleigh Bells Ring

Are you listening?

My mother lent me her beautiful antique sled for the holidays. I've filled it with fresh boughs...plenty of those around here, and put it on my front steps. I keep thinking that the bright red would look smashing against the snow. Presently we're in the middle of a snow storm so I don't dare set it out or I won't be able to find it by morning. I've had to shovel my driveway three times today. That's right, you heard me. We're going to have a white Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Candle of Peace

Yesterday marked the lighting of the second candle on the advent wreath. Last week, the first candle, the candle of hope was lit, and this week is the candle of peace. Peace is possible. It's in our hearts waiting to be felt. We all have the potential to experience joy and a certain peace that dwells within. If I can hope for anything as we approach this holiday season, it would be that peace would dwell in all of our lives and would shine out as a ray of light in this dark season, that we would set aside the busyness that the holiday sometimes brings and remember to reach out to those who are alone or have lost loved ones, that we would spread joy and peace to all those around us.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Viking Laws

On the rare occasion, we find something that will or has passed the test of time. I think you will find this is still good advice even in this day and age.

~1. Be brave and aggressive

be direct
grab all opportunities
use varying methods of attack
be versatile and agile
attack one target at a time
don't plan everything in detail
use top quality weapons

~2. Be prepared
keep weapons in good conditions
keep in shape
find good battle comrades
agree on important points
choose one chief

~3. Be a good merchant
find out what the market needs
don't promise what you can't keep
don't demand overpayment
arrange things so that you can return

~4. Keep the camp in order
keep things tidy and organized
arrange enjoyable activities which strengthen the group
make sure everybody does useful work
consult all members of the group for advice