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Revenge of the Vikings
I had only been to Norway once before, September 2005, to see Scotland beat Norway 2-1 and effectively end their chances of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup.
On that occasion I had travelled with 1,500 other members of the tartan army to Lillestrom, a suburb of Oslo, 5 years later I returned to Lillestrom with 2 fellow kilted Scots, Colin & Graham, this time as guests at Lillestrom Round Table`s annual Christmas dinner.
The tradition of Scots in kilts attending the event was down to Graham, who as a past National Chairman of Round Table UK & Ireland had befriended our host Morten who had been his counterpart for Norway. As for Colin and I ?
Well, Colin had spent a lifetime in Round Table, and as I write is out for the fourth consecutive night in sub zero temperatures with Santa`s magic reindeer belting out Noddy Holder & Band Aid whilst collecting around the streets of Bushey & Oxhey. And me ?
Well, I was chairman of Rickmansworth Round Table and as the current Honorary President of Bushey & Oxhey Round Table I was more than happy to be out with the lads last night rattling my tin and enjoying the looks on childrens faces as Santa visited their street.
And I look not too bad in a kilt either which meant I was on the plane to Oslo. The formal part of the weekend had started at 730am in the bar at Stansted when Graham had formally inducted me into the Round Table Buffalo Club which simply meant I could only hold and consume alcoholic beverages in my left hand and, if forgetful and challenged by a club member had to drain my glass, place it on my head and recite “ That was extremely reasonable of you sir !
“ All fairly straightforward though I can already feel the Daily Mail readers amongst you twitching and reaching for your “Binge drinking brings Britain to its knees “ pencils.
So we’ll skip the bit about calling for the return of the Ryanair drinks trolley (3 times) visiting 4 bars in downtown Oslo where Colin and I were buffaloed twice and Graham seemed to be deliberately drinking with his right hand and fast forward to the real reason for the story. Revenge of the Lutefisk.
Now Lutefisk starts life as a cod in the crystal clear waters off the coast of Norway before being caught, gutted, filleted and literally hung out to dry in the dry mountain air of Norway, for 5 months….
After 5 months the Lutefisk is soaked in caustic soda for 24 hours before being soaked in fresh water for 4 days (with the water changed every 6 hours) then it`s popped into an earthenware dish and baked in a slow oven for an hour.
In the meantime its innocent kilted victims are seated at the dinner table gazing at a condiments tray containing 3 types of mustard, plus dry mustard powder, strong grated horseradish, 2 types of grated cheese and rolled,heavy potato pancakes.
Minutes before the Lutefisk arrives bowls of fried chunky bacon bits swimming in pork fat are ceremonially placed on the table, followed by bowls of boiled potatoes & dry mushy peas and plates of black rye bread and hot vinegary mustard sauce.
All are nothing compared to the guest of honour. The Lutefisk. A plate of trembling, off white, glutinous mass appears, not dissimilar to a poached armadillo without its shell. Of course one shows respect as ones Viking hosts gaze in awe at the dish of their ancestors.
One uses the rolled up heavy potato pancake rolls to slap it to make sure it`s dead. Then one douses it with mustard, horseradish, cheese plus anything available and edible eg ones sporran before raising the first trembling spoonful and swallowing.
Now I`m game enough to try most things put in front of me, I glanced sideways at Colin who`d turned green for the first time in his life and Graham who was furtively shovelling the stuff into his sporran and then God looked down on me.
For you see, so rare is the Lutefisk that only honoured guests are served it and the Viking sat next to me was gazing longingly at my plate and, in halting English offered to swap his plate with mine. So that`s how I came to learn about Viking dish number 2.
Smoked lamb ribs on a bed of chopped swede & carrot. On that cold November night I truly believe the Norwegians took their revenge on the kilted warriers who had visited Lillestrom five years earlier.