Countdown to the ‘fisk has begun

POULSBO — First Lutheran’s lutefisk dinner crew prides itself on serving handmade Norwegian delicacies to 1,100-1,500 people each year.

And when they say handmade, they mean handmade.

Kicking off the countdown to the 92nd annual feed, about 10 dedicated volunteers gathered in the early morning of Sept. 27 to peel, chop and cook 200 pounds of potatoes. The spuds will become the base for the 2,000 or so pieces of lefse that will be served at the dinner Oct. 16.

Later, these unsung kitchen crusaders will peel and prepare another 600 pounds to be served as a side dish at the event.

Art Smaaladen, who celebrated his 90th birthday Sunday, was the most seasoned of the potato peelers Monday morning. He estimated that he’s been slinging spuds for about 50 years at First Lutheran, where he’s been a member for about 70 years.

“I like it,” he said of what keeps him coming back every year. “You sit here and BS a little. You find out a lot of things here.”

And while the whole process might look like a group of sitcom Army recruits who pulled KP, there is a definite finesse to even potatoes for the special dinner. Gene Cook, who with his wife Ann has been helping cook the potatoes for about six years, said they have to be cooked down to mush with no lumps. Then, flour and other ingredients have to be added at just the right time.

“I don’t know if I’d say it’s fun. It’s my pay and penance,” he joked, throwing a heaping handful of potato into a bowl. “The lefse ladies let me know when the dough is just right.”

Potato crew lead Chet Gausta estimated that he’s been peeling for about 40 years. He said he doesn’t remember how he was brought into the fold but that he enjoys the work because it begins building the excitement leading up to the lutefisk dinner. He said he first tried lutefisk at the Lutheran Free Church when he was 9 years old.

“Oh yes, I liked it,” he commented. “That’s why I’ve made it to 88 years old, because I’ve been eating lutefisk all these years.”

Tickets are now on sale for the annual lutefisk dinner, proceeds from which benefit First Lutheran community projects. The family-style, all-you-can-eat feast features:

• 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

Tickets for the First Lutheran lutefisk dinner 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 Mail order purchases will be taken until Oct. 5.


92nd Annual First Lutheran Lutefisk Dinner

11:20 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 16

First Lutheran Church Christian Center

Tickets: $15 adults, $5 children

Info:, (360) 779-2622

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