Saturday, 16 January 2016


I have been known to write pieces about bad food: the worst meal I have ever eaten in Greece, for example, and my account of the Ethiopian restaurant. I do not know the author of the following piece about "Lutefisk" but he (I assume it is a he but I am happy to stand corrected) writes his account of a meal in a restaurant in Oslo with deep emotion. A couple of extracts will suffice.

"As the waitress piled dishes on the table I started to wonder what I had let myself in for. With the appearance of a large dish containing a dirty green mush with the texture of badly mashed potatoes I started to become a little concerned. When this was followed by an even larger dish of what really was mashed potatoes my worries grew. However, it was the enormous bowl of hot bacon fat with a few pieces of chopped fried bacon floating around that finally made me realise that, even if this was going to be the best meal of my host's life, the chances that it would be the best I had ever eaten were extremely small.

Finally, with some ceremony, the waitress brought out the two oversized plates piled high with the Lutefisk. At first I was baffled, where was the cod? My plate was covered with a mound of a translucent white gelatinous substance. I presumed this was a sauce on top of the fish. But no, how wrong could I be? The wobbling mound was the cod. What could they possibly have done to a perfectly good piece of cod to reduce it to this sorry state I wondered?


My host soon led the way quickly tucking in to large portions of the Lutefisk mixed with helpings of the potatoes, the green stuff (which turned out to be nothing more exotic than mushy peas) and the bacon fat, and then washing the lot down with a swig of aquavit. I soon found that I could just about tolerate the slighty soapy flavour of the Lutefisk - it was the peculiar gelatinous texture that I found hard to cope with. The equally soft textures of the partly mashed potatoes and the peas did not help, but surprisingly, the somewhat salty bacon fat gave just enough edge to the mixture to make it possible to swallow without wincing. In practice it was only the swig of aquavit after each brave mouthful that kept me going - albeit rather slowly. My host had soon polished off all his plateful while I still bravely fought on. I tried to give the impression I always ate this slowly to make sure I savoured each moment of the experience. I believe I almost convinced my host that I was actually enjoying the meal - I did not really lie to him, I merely said I had never before eaten anything like it!

Eventually after a mammoth effort, I managed to finish the plateful of Lutefisk and most of the side dishes. As soon as I had taken the final mouthful our waitress appeared at my side and whisked away my plate together with that of my host. My relief at seeing the end of the Lutefisk was, however, very short-lived. No sooner had she gathered up the empty plates than she pronounced in a lilting Scandinavian accent the words that I shall never forget as long as I live. "And now would you like your second plateful of Lutefisk?"

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