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Many celebrate the season with lutfisk

SCANDIA, Minn. -Carol Hauglie came to enjoy the lutfisk meal not for the taste, but for the memories.

Many celebrate the season with lutfisk
Some people came to Elim Lutheran Church's annual lutfisk dinner in Scandia Nov. 18 in Scandinavian-inspired sweaters including, from left: Gordon Brandsnes of White Bear Lake, his brother Dean Brandsnes of Roseville, Dean's brother-in-law Robert Peterson and Robert's wife Donna of St. Paul. Behind them are the Peterson's friends, Jim and Julie Peterson, no relation of Edina.

SCANDIA, Minn. -Carol Hauglie came to enjoy the lutfisk meal not for the taste, but for the memories.

She describes the traditional Scandinavian dish that many Minnesotans seek out around the Christmas season as mild and bland. Still, the cod is tradition that she and her twin sister grew up eating.

"Our parents were born in Sweden," she said Nov. 18 at Elim Lutheran Church's annual Lutfisk meal in Scandia. "We were brought up with lutfisk five miles from here."

Hauglie's twin sister, Caroline Thompson of Chisago City, won the top door prize of the event's 11:30 a.m seating: two tickets to next year's lutfisk meal.

The church has been serving lutfisk for about 20 years, said meal organizer Lynne Blomstrand Moratzka. It's a fund raiser for the Gammelgarden Museum located across the street, which is owned by the church and has its own budget dedicated to preserving the story of immigrants, particularly Swedish immigrants, to the area. Last year, the meal raised nearly $10,000.

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This year, they ordered 800 pounds of cod and expected to serve 750 people. While some boil the fish, they bake it in a cheesecloth and serve about one pound per person with melted butter or a cream sauce.

The church offered five seatings during the day, each serving 150 people. Tickets were $17 each and the first three seatings sold out in advance.

Guests walked through a serving line while volunteers piled their plates high with red cabbage, Swedish meatballs, Swedish brown beans, mashed rutabaga and beet pickles. People's plates were so full at the end of the line that they had to make a second trip to a table piled with breads and dessert of rice pudding and Swedish butter cookies.

Waiting to get in to the first seating of the day was Dick and Millie Anderson of Forest Lake. They try to get to as many lutfisk meals as they can each year. Millie doesn't eat the fish so she comes for the meatballs. It's her job to mark lutfisk meals on the calendar and his job to eat it, they said.

"It's a tradition," said Dick, whose father came to America from Sweden and whose mother was the first generation of her Swedish family born in the states. "My mom used to cook it."

Finishing her plate, Ida Quistad of Maplewood, said she loves lutfisk because it reminds her of an Italian dish she grew up with.

"It has a texture of its own and I love it," she said.

To others, lutfisk is like pasta. Sure, it may be a bland fish but it's the sauce you put on top that makes it taste good.

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Two volunteers brought even more of the traditions alive by wearing traditional Swedish dresses. Mignon Johnson collected dinner tickets in a dress she made while Hazel Walgren wore a dress her husband ordered for her as a gift from Stockholm.

"I'm 100 percent Swedish," said Walgren proudly. Many others at the meal also talked about their strong Swedish heritage.

The lutfisk meal is one of the two times a year she wears her traditional dress.

It took about 60 volunteers from the church to put the meal on, with help from people serving in the county court's Sentence to Service program, who helped bus tables. Additionally, some seniors from Chisago Lakes High School came to help out to complete a community service project.

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