Inspiration for "A Simple Christmas"

December 27, 2017 |

This week, I’m sharing family stories inspired by my book "A Simple Christmas" and sent to me a few years ago by my radio listeners. Warning: today’s is not for the weak of stomach.  

One thing everyone loves about the holidays is all the great foods we indulge in only once a year.  Every family has its special dishes that simply must be on the table, from oyster dressing to yams with tiny marshmallows.  But sometimes, they don’t make for a great combination, on the plate or in your stomach. 

Kevin from Maryland wrote me that he grew up in a Norwegian family that always served the notorious fish dish, lutefisk, which he jokingly called, “the piece of Cod that passes all understanding."  (The recipe involves soaking a piece of cod fish in lye for three days.  Seriously.)

Kevin recalled: “My mother, a fine teetotaling Christian who prided herself on never having alcohol in the house, was appalled the day my uncle brought a six-pack of beer as his contribution to the Christmas meal. To my mother’s horror, my father graciously accepted the libation. And so, in sullen silence, the family dinner was served...the traditional lutefisk and Godless beer.” 

“I remember the smirk on my uncle's face as he began to eat the fish dish and wash it down with beer.  My father, at the other end of the table shared in the merriment, while my poor grim-faced mother tried to remain polite...though sitting next to her, I was certain that she was asking God to strike her kin with righteous retribution.” 

Now, at this point, Kevin went into some clinical details about the chemical reactions of the digestive system that I won’t relay here.  Suffice to say that about half an hour into the meal, his dad and uncle suddenly excused themselves and bolted from the table.  They both spent a miserable night of gastric distress, much to his mom’s quiet satisfaction. 

Kevin said that was the Christmas he learned that mixing fish cured in lye with beer creates a volcanic reaction in the stomach similar to mixing vinegar and baking soda.  He said it was also the year he learned that God answers prayers (his mother’s, at least.)  And He's not above using science in working His will. 

Don’t worry, tomorrow, I’ll bring you a story that touches the heart rather than the stomach. 

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Comments 1-20 of 20

  • Judith Herziger

    01/02/2018 02:50 PM

    WOW! Your daughter is doing a GREAT job working for our government. I know you are very proud of her! Judy Herziger

  • Michael R Brannick

    12/28/2017 06:34 PM

    Mike, I was stationed at Grand Forks AFB, ND for 5 years. We tried bot Lutefisk and Lefse, both Norwegian dishes. While I much prefer Lefse (a potato pancake) the Lutefisk wasn't that bad.

  • Sandy Ronecker

    12/28/2017 11:33 AM

    RE: Kevin's Memories of lutefisk. My many cousins and I were also brought up by a Norwegian family of 7 sisters and 6 brothers, who always "yearned" to have their beloved lutefisk during the Christmas holidays. And while they didn't have it every Christmas (depending on the availability of finding it), I remember very well the Christmas it was introduced to "the cousins." We couldn't wait to have a taste of this wonderful dish our aunts and uncles raved about. Our reaction and I'm sure I speak for my cousins as well: Eat a fish soaked in lye!? That's when we became even more grateful for the Norwegian tradition we were brought up with since toddlers: Lefsa. It can be eaten with beer with no side effects, but I enjoy eating it all by itself with a cup of coffee. Lefsa, made with mashed potatoes, butter, and cream and then rolled out, browned on a grill and spread with butter and a little sugar when cool .... yummy. It's been over 70 years that most of "the cousins" were introduced to lefsa and has remained a tradition even though our aunts and uncles are no longer with us.
    Some food traditions are just better than others.

  • Anne Lofranco

    12/27/2017 08:41 PM

    We are so thankful to God that in this day and age of godlessness, we still have decent men like you and people like Mr. Cruz, Pence, your brilliant daughter Sarah,Allen West, Herman Cain,(even Rubio at times) etc. We appreciate your writings and wish we had lots of money so we could help with financial support. However we can and do pray for you all. From a former Pan-Canal Zonian I wish you; Feliz Navidad y Un Prospero Ano Nuevo.

  • Kelley Dufour

    12/27/2017 04:02 PM

    Thanks for fish story; I got a good belly-laugh reading it! Happy New Year!!

  • Paula Meek

    12/27/2017 02:46 PM

    Love your stories. In fact I may start calling you Paul Harvey, Jr. And I'm sure you will take that as the compliment which is intended. Love your humor, your Christian example and the fact that you did so darn well in teaching Sarah how to be a good example too. Blessings!

  • W Ann White

    12/27/2017 01:59 PM

    You have an amazing daughter. So glad that she has the position she has to deal with the liberal news 'journalists'.

  • Cindy Zapotocky

    12/27/2017 01:38 PM

    I am concerned about the ads that show up with your commentaries on the daily newsletter....today Bill Gate's pushing "the smart pill" and reducing belly fat. Sometimes the photos are gross. Have you reviewed these? Can't you find another ad sponsor who will run more positive, uplifting ads than this junk? Otherwise, really enjoy your newsletter!!

  • Keith Flagg

    12/27/2017 01:21 PM

    Great Book Mike I got a box guitar when I was 12 and I know I wasn't very good at first. Still really not I can pick a few songs but I can't cord to well. But it was an Old Box Guitar I remember it was yellow and had the holes in the side like Musical Notes. Love your book still reading it. God Bless and Keep Up the Christian and Conservative Values we hold so Deep.

  • Heidi Petrick

    12/27/2017 12:46 PM

    Governor, your story about the lutefisk and beer is priceless. I love it! I have to really feel sorry for the wailing successes in government who think the world will come to an end because the President is giving a break to the working stiff(kudos to him). The last I heard Mageddo is in Israel, not the United States. Have a Happy New Year, Governor. God bless.

  • Fred Bryn

    12/27/2017 12:31 PM

    Lutefisk, was a lye cured dried chunk of fish in wooden boxes on outside the market in our winter frozen town in NoDak, often seasoned by passing dogs.... for real. However it was prepared by soaking in milk for a day at least, in a couple of changes iirc, then cooked. To me, and others, it was as flavorless as a lump of gelatin unless drenched in melted butter, salt and pepper.. BUT it was traditional, and in my old days I think of it at Christmas... pass the turkey please. While we had only wine occasionally at Christmas, there were never any gastric problems that we attributed to lutefisk...

  • W Ann White

    12/27/2017 12:19 PM

    Included at the top of the page with your Special Christmas story was an ad from Judicial Watch asking individuals to sign a petition. In the petition it is stated that it costs American tax payers $113 Billion dollars a year for illegal immigration costs. Does this figure represent welfare benefits alone or does it also include the cost of policing, court costs, incarceration costs, etc. caused by criminal illegal immigrants?

  • Judith Hoskins

    12/27/2017 10:07 AM

    I too come from a Sandinavian family (tho Swedish) . My grandma also made ludfish- I didn't try it, but it sounds to me that the lady who served it didn't soak the lye out of it enough. My grandparents had their own Swedish version of beer and no one had a volcano reaction to eating and drinking both together. I still serve Swedish dishes for Christmas even now-ever tried pickled herring (in the cream sauce is my favorite) ?

  • Bill Hoglund

    12/27/2017 09:58 AM

    I too come from Norwegian background and my grandfather demanded lutefisk at Christmas to his children's dismay. After grandpa passed, the children quickly cancelled the dish for Christmas. My father used to describe the lutefisk prep as "soaking in lye for 4 hours, placing on a pine board, baking at 400 deg for 4 hours, then removing the fish, and eating the board with salt and pepper!!!!
    So ends the Hoglund family tradition.

  • Judy patton

    12/27/2017 09:53 AM

    First, I just want to say y’all did a great job of raising ur Daughter, she is excellent job for President!
    Second, I love the moma in this story! I’m not a fan of that kinda dish tho! Keep stories coming

  • BILL HAUG

    12/27/2017 09:27 AM

    I'm a Vietnam Veteran who grew up on a farm with my grandparents--all of whom came from Norway. Lutefisk was a Christmas delicacy that along with "lefse" (potato cake) was mandatory. I never saw it ingested with any kind of alcohol but the description of the outcome is clearly believable!

  • Sheldon K Larsen

    12/27/2017 09:22 AM

    Great story with good humor. Glad you share all you do, especially your faith. Thank you.

  • Patricia Whitaker

    12/27/2017 09:11 AM

    HAHAHA!! GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!!!

  • Anne Fernandes

    12/27/2017 08:56 AM

    Love these stories, that given the passage of time, become the second-most glorious gifts of Christmas!!

  • Lyn Hart

    12/27/2017 08:26 AM

    Great story. I’ve had lutefisk and I have that reaction without the beer. ????