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Something is smelling at First Lutheran Church
Howard Lestrud, Contributing Writer
Howard Lestrud, Reflections

A little virus called COVID-19 cannot shut down lutefisk dinners from being held throughout the world, including one coming up on Saturday, Oct. 14 at First Lutheran Church in Blooming Prairie.

You might say lutefisk is a virus of sorts. When it gets hold of you, it’s hard to find an antidote to neutralize it.

First Lutheran Church has been listed as the carrier of this stinky (but characterized by lutefisk lovers as a lovely aroma) fish.

The First Lutheran Church Meat Ball and Lutefisk Dinner appeared to have sucked its last breath in 2020 and 2021, but due to some stubborn Scandinavians, it was revived with fervor.

Saturday service

Last year’s dinner, for the first time in its history, was served on a Saturday. This enabled workers to find time to attend the dinner.

More than 100 volunteers helped produce the cuisine that many had been waiting two years to devour. An estimated 800 hungry lutefisk lovers pushed through the doors and ate 825 pounds of lutefisk, said lutefisk dinner chairwoman Ruth Earl.

I am not a lover of lutefisk, however I do eat about a quarter’s worth of the delicate morsel each year to keep up my Norwegian heritage.

In her later years, I asked my mother Alma (100 percent Norwegian) why we didn’t eat lutefisk at home.

“It’s because I don’t like it,” she quickly replied.

Day Fish Co.

I became more familiar with this strange phenomenon when I began working with a community weekly newspaper in Forest Lake.

I was sent on assignment to the Day Fish Co. near Braham, a trip that would hopefully result in an investigative story about lutefisk, “the real cause for a smell permeating and spreading throughout Minnesota.”

I recall introducing myself to the owner of the fish shop. His name escapes me at this time.

He then took me into this brooder house type building that contained many stock tanks. At one end of the building, an elderly gentleman wearing buckle overshoes monitored the stock tanks by stirring the substance within.

“Would you like to see how the lutefisk comes into our shop?” When we said yes, the storekeeper obliged and took us into an old shed that contained what appeared to be old house shingles.

No, it was lutefisk. The store proprietor said the fish was mailed to him and then put into a lye solution to make the beginning of a new Norwegian weapon called lutefisk.

Yes, I did a story on our visit to Day, but I have no evidence remaining to vouch for my claims of writing about the secrets of preparing lutefisk.

Hardy churches

While attending church services at Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, I became part of the crew putting on the annual lutefisk feed. The church served about 700 at the event.

Due to a hardship in recruiting workers, Forest Lake cancelled the event about seven years ago. Other locations have also shut the doors on lutefisk events, but many have continued. First Lutheran is one of those hardy churches that has been able to continue this annual event.

Ticket sales are underway for three seatings (11 a.m., 12 p.m, and 1 p.m.) on Saturday, October 14. A limited number of takeout dinners are available.

The online reservation and payment system is available 24 hours a day. Tickets are reserved when payment transaction is complete. Follow all prompts carefully.

You may also reserve tickets by phone at 507-583-6621 during office hours at the church. Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Voicemail requests will not be returned.

Tickets cost $23 per meal. Reservations and pre-payment are required for dining room seating and take-out, no walk-ins. First Lutheran Church is at 434 First Street SW in Blooming Prairie.

Enjoy your dinner!

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