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Traditional fisk begets a feast

POULSBO — It’s a Christmas tradition in many Norwegian households.

In the First Lutheran family, lutefisk makes its debut the third week of October and it’s just as much of a tradition.

The 90th Annual First Lutheran Lutefisk Dinner will take place from 11:20 a.m. to 5:40 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Christian Education Center gymnasium.

Event Coordinator Margene Smalaaden said usually about 1,200 people come from far and wide to attend — and for many it’s an annual pilgrimage.

“My whole family, my kids, come to the dinner,” Smalaaden said. “Even if they don’t like lutefisk, they like the dinner.”

The annual dinner, proceeds from which benefit Martha & Mary and other First Lutheran projects, features homemade fare from an army of volunteers. The menu includes:

•Lutefisk, made from true cod and processed in the conventional Norwegian manner, and served with melted butter or cream sauce.

•Norwegian meatballs and gravy

•Potatoes

•Lefse

•Dinner salad and fresh sliced tomatoes

•Sherbet with Norwegian cookies

•Coffee, tea and/or milk

All meals are served family style and are all you can eat and lutefisk lovers (and it’s pretty hard to find the opposite at First Lutheran) say that’s a good thing. Though lutefisk certainly has its detractors, New Day’s special recipe usually wins over quite a few skeptics.

“It has to be prepared just right. It has to be trimmed just right. It has to be cooked just right and it has to be good quality fish,” Smalaaden said of lutefisk. “Every step of the way here it’s done just right.”

Lutefisk Dinner greeter Earl Hanson said he’s eaten the codfish dish all his life and has tasted versions from many different sources. By and large, he says First Lutheran’s offering stands above the rest.

“It’s much better,” he said. “There’s uniformity in the way it’s prepared, they have these huge vats where they process it.”

But even those who don’t partake in the traditional fish have a variety of tempting treats to sample. About 2,000 pieces of lefse, 600 pounds of meatballs and more than 200 dozen Norwegian cookies have been prepared for the event. Margaret Smalaaden said she loves lutefisk but she also loves the lefse, prepared with butter and cinnamon sugar.

“It’s got to have lefse with it,” she commented.

Besides food, visitors will also be treated to the sounds of the Clover Blossom Band throughout the day. Miss Poulsbo Danielle Deitch will be on hand, and Sons of Norway dancers may also entertain the crowd.

“Everything is so beautiful and served with such care, you feel like you’ve been wined and dined when you leave the dinner,” commented Donna Erickson, a 10-year volunteer for the dinner. “Everything has been geared to make you feel special.”

Tickets for the upcoming First Lutheran lutefisk dinner are now on sale. They are $15 for adults and $5 for children younger than 12. Tickets are sold by seating times, which are spaced every 20 minutes throughout the day. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling (360) 779-2622, or by going to http://www.poulsbo-lutefisk. com.

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