Woodworking: I forgive fellow columnist for his disdain of lutefiskThe Journal’s outdoor columnist Dan Wilcox has for years been one of my favorite reads in this newspaper.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
The Journal’s outdoor columnist Dan Wilcox has for years been one of my favorite reads in this newspaper.
Dan has the rare ability to make writing look easy when actually it’s very hard, especially if one writes as graphically as Dan. Also, Dan grew up in Ohio, where I spent much of my young manhood and we have fun talking about the foibles and fancies of the Buckeye State.
Finally, he attended UW-Stevens Point, where I once taught and we have for years traded stories about our misadventures there in the city of 150 taverns.
Until recently, I also thought Dan was a good cook, had a great sensitivity to taste and sophistication, aided and abetted by his wife Carol.
Well, I guess you can’t be correct about everything. I have just laid aside the Dec. 18 issue of the River Falls Journal, which includes Mr. Wilcox’s assessment of lutefisk.
If you haven’t read it, Mr. Wilcox writes about attending the Hagberg family’s annual Soiree de Lutefisk in New Richmond, which attracts many Pierce County denizens every year.
I couldn’t make it last month due to an old war wound, but I’ve attended several times.
As an aficionado di lutefisk, I can tell you the Hagberg clan does a great job cooking it just right, so you don’t have to eat it through a straw, so you actually have to cut it, so you can actually pick up a piece with a fork and pop it in your mouth before it falls in your lap and gives your new Oshkosh B’Gosh bib overalls a big butter stain.
Such is a great accomplishment. But Mr. Wilcox complained anyway.
He complained that it didn’t have much taste and that he saw the bottom of his plate through one piece he picked up.
Au contraire, Monsieur Wilcox. Connoisseurs know that Lutefisk is not SUPPOSED to taste like anything. Any student of the slippery fish will tell you Norwegians purposely eliminate its taste to highlight the unctuous texture and flavor of butter and salt and pepper.
Any student of the translucent denizens of the fjords will tell you that if Lutefisk DID taste, you’d be in deep trouble.
Lutefisk actually does taste if your fork turns black because some sluggard didn’t rinse the lye out before cooking. The Hagberg’s never let that happen.
But apparently that’s not good enough for the likes of Mr. Wilcox, who hails from Cleveland, the Rust Belt and Slovenian Headcheese Capitol of the Lower Midwest. What does he expect?
I agree with Mr. Wilcox that his neighborhood used to sport a great Howard Johnson’s, but could that American icon ever hope to compare with the established cuisines of Europe?
I would remind Mr. Wilcox that Italians all but invented haut cuisine, which the French stole and fancied up. But the Italians know what they’re doing.
Does Mr. Wilcox know, for instance, that Italy imports more lutefisk than does the United States. Think of it! The chefs in the home of Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Pasta Fagiole leaning on hardy Norskes to provide them with one of their favorite recipes, stokkefisso, in which these great chefs batter fry-nuggets of lutefisk and serve up with garlic and lemon mayonnaise.
And so Mr. Wilcox, in typical Ohio fashion, is bucking an age-old trend. It ill-behooves this enthusiastic piscator who has distinguished himself in the annals of bluegill and crappie stalking. What could have prompted this otherwise intelligent and sensitive outdoorsman to lose complete control of his olfactory and other senses?
I think, on his behalf, I might have part of the answer.
Many years ago, when I first moved to Ohio, several Buckeye graduate students invited me to a picnic in Sandusky, which is located on Lake Erie, not far from Cleveland.
About 30 miles out of Bowling Green, my friend Nancy said, “Well, we’ll be there soon.”
“How do you know, Nancy?” I asked. “You’re not from Sandusky.”
“No,” said Nancy. “But I’m from Toledo and I can already smell the dead carp.”
So if that’s the sort of taste and smell Mr. Wilcox is looking for, my sympathy goes out to him and we should forgive him his trespasses.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 426-9554.