Community feast on ‘fisk at Sons Saturday

POULSBO — As the days grow shorter and there’s a nip in the air, folks start thinking of holiday traditions.

For many members of the Sons of Norway, that means lutefisk.

The center of preserving and appreciating Scandinavian culture will once again be keeping the lutefisk tradition alive as it presents the 5th annual Sons of Norway Lutefisk Dinner from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at the lodge on Front Street. Between 400 and 500 dinner guests are expected to visit from far and wide to be treated to a smorgasbord of New Day lutefisk, lefse, Norwegian meatballs, steamed potatoes, carrots and coleslaw.

“It’s heritage, promotion of Norwegian heritage,” explained Sons of Norway Vice President Stan Teigland of the motivation behind the dinner. “We actually don’t make a lot of money from it. It’s really more of a celebration of culture.”

While the dinner is certainly not the only large event the lodge hosts, it is a big deal for members. A crew of about 50 volunteers take part in the preparations for the dinner each year, from making and preparing the lefse to rolling and frying meatballs to being servers and clean-up crews during the dinner.

Last Saturday, the meatball crew was busy at work for the 2003 event, this time aiming at nearly 4,000 meatballs.

Vickie Arness, who is credited with creating the special meatball recipe the lodge uses, said last year the lutefisk dinner had to be cut short when the meatballs ran out. This year, she said the crew opted to up the amount of ingredients both for their anticipated dinner crowd this weekend and for a special holiday event Dec. 7, which will feature the Norwegian Male Chorus of Seattle.

“We’re doubling up so we don’t have to do this twice,” Arness said.

But of course the king of the event is the lutefisk, a traditional codfish dish that has just as many fans as it does skeptics. Most Norwegian households serve the dish on special occasions during the holiday season and the dinner is a chance for even non-Norwegians to have a taste of the dish cooked just right.

“I remember having lutefisk every second day of Christmas,” commented Sons of Norway Administrator Mariann Samuelson. “You have it from when you’re born, so you know that’s the only time you get it. It’s a treat.”

It’s the camaraderie and not the ‘fisk that keeps Jim and Mary Waller coming to the meatball-making parties every year. Jim Waller was one of the many local men who actually helped build Grieg Hall on Front Street and said he and his wife try their best to support the heritage the center celebrates — even if they’re not exactly in love with the lute.

“We’re not known for eating lutefisk,” Jim admitted with a laugh. “We’re Scots, Irish and German. We just help them out and show them how to cook.”

The Sons of Norway Lutefisk Dinner takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 15 at Grieg Hall on Front Street. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children 7 and younger. Tickets and seatings are on a first-come-first-served basis.

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