Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Scandinavian Holiday Party

Mr. Johnson watches the Swedish dancers streak by
This past weekend I tried Lutefisk for the first time ever.  You might wonder how an old Norskie like me has avoided that for so many years.  The reason is my family didn't like it and didn't serve it for Christmas! We had pork roast instead.  (Smart people.)

What is Lutefisk, you say?

Well, it is cod fish, soaked in lye to preserve it through a long, harsh, Nordic winter.  It stinks to high heaven, and it is rather gelatinous in consistency.

Lutefisk with butter
Sunday evening I attended a real Scandinavian holiday dinner lovingly prepared and hosted by the Vasa Lodge #660 at the Trinity Lutheran Church of Whittier, and I had an opportunity to finally try this interesting stuff.

I was surprised that I found it pretty good, once I got over the slimy mouth-feel of it.  It tasted like fish. With butter and potatoes, it really was tasty.  I could see why people preserved the fish and the delicate cod flavor this way.  It would probably keep indefinitely.

The sign says "Welcome" in Swedish
Norwegians call it Lutefisk, Swedes call it Lutfisk.  Same stinky stuff.
The Vasa organization started as a Swedish-American fraternal organization to help Swedish immigrants learn the English language and how to get along in their new country.  Over the past century it has morphed into more of a social group open to all of Scandinavian descent.  It fosters education and a cultural exchange for Scandinavian traditions of all kinds.  That means that a person of mostly Norwegian heritage, like me, is welcome, as are those of Icelandic, Danish and Finnish heritage.

Standing in line for dinner
There are more than 150 local lodges in the Vasa Order throughout the United States, Sweden and Canada.

My neighbors enjoying their meal
The meal served was delicious  I had already eaten most of my beets by the time I realized I had forgotten to take a picture!

Going clockwise from the pickled beets: There was cucumber salad, pickled herring, Swedish Limpa bread, lutefisk in the middle (I just got a small taste), potato, meatballs with gravy and green beans.  There was also a cole slaw salad and a table with wine and spirits, cheese and crackers.  They brought lefse around, and also had risengrot (rice pudding) with raspberries for dessert.  All the food was very good.

My plate
Yummy was its name.
Lefse, by the way, is a thin, potato flour tortilla.

Pickled herring is, well, herring that's been pickled. I know it may look unappetizing, but it's REALLY tasty, and one of my favorite things. My sister-in-law makes a really yummy herring salad for Christmas dinner. You can make it several ways, for example with apples and onions, or in cream sauce, or with mustard sauce.  I once went to a party where there were four different pickled herring salads served with the meal. They were all delicious.

Pickled Herring
About an hour into the dinner service, the Swedish Dancers began performing.

The Accordion Player accompanied the Swedish Dancers who performed
The dancers performed several dances, Danish, Swedish and even a British folk dance.  It was lovely and fun to watch them.  Then, the real fun began!

The dancers wove through the audience, dragging audience members to their feet and forcing them to perform with them!

Just kidding.

They dragged audience members to their feet and gently cajoled them into joining them.

They began gathering at the dance area

People of all different ages participated!  

You can catch a little of the Swedish Dancers' costumes in some of these photos.
I regret not stopping them and just taking photos of their traditional clothing!

A controlled chaos erupted!

My friends Ray and David both got nabbed by the dancers for this tutorial
It's hard to get good photos when everyone is moving!
From what I could tell, the Folk Dance Troupe made it fun for everyone.

This kind of folk dancing is akin to our square dancing.  It's a good way for people to get to know one another.

Ray twirls his partner
The Johnsons sat at our table
The Johnsons sat with us at our table.  They were a lovely couple.  We had a good time talking about our various experiences in Scandinavia.  They shared with me that their name was originally the Swedish Johanson, but it got Americanized by Mr. Johnson's immigrant father when he arrived at Ellis Island.

Christmas gifts for sale

There were several tables set up with Scandinavian Christmas gifts for sale.
Dala Horses

I love these little dolls
The picture on the left shows the boy bearing the lutefisk barrel and struggling with the smell!
It was fun to see all this cute stuff, but my house is already full of these things, thank you!  Ha!

We had such a fun time at this event.  It was a good way to kick off the holiday season - which is coming way too quickly for my taste this year!

I was so grateful my friends were willing to come with me!  Thanks, everyone!

To discover more about the Vasa Order of America, go to www.vasaorder.com.

Photos: ME, and R Fry

1 comment:

Linnea said...

Look at that huge Dala horse!!

What a fun party. Did you dance??