Faraway foods in central Wisconsin
By Marv Kohlbeck
The mention of limburger cheese or lutefisk can draw immediate attention from those who love or hate the aroma, taste, or mere mentioning of these foods served at annual fundraising dinners. For me the date of the annual Marshfield Lions Oktoberfest or the “Sons of Norway” lutefisk dinner attract my attention as I love foods served at both events.
There are two specific reasons why I like the German and Scandinavian ethnic foods. No. 1 of course is that I am of German descent, and in our family of eight children, Mom naturally was a good cook, and many of her preparations consisted of the basic foods that I have found at the Marshfield Lions Oktoberfest meal.
This past Oct. 6, their menu consisted of grilled bratwurst, sauerkraut, German potato salad, pork loin, mashed potatoes and gravy, red cabbage, cabbage rolls, chicken and dumplings, limburger cheese, rye bread, and desserts. I tried every item on the menu. Needless to say, I did not go home hungry.
As an aside I would mention that my father was a practical joker, and he loved to play tricks on friends. On occasions he would take samples of limburger cheese to work at the aluminum foundry in Manitowoc, and during some breaks he would apply a small portion of the stinky cheese to the manifold of cars. Think for a moment of the odor that would pass through the car as the motor warmed up.
My love for lutefisk has a different twist. Being a Catholic, living in a Norwegian community, and attending a high school with a Norwegian name, Valders, had our family associating with many Norwegian families and their traditional foods.
Of course, as Lenten season drew near, the Norwegians knew that the Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays, so they seized upon the opportunity to peddle fish around the Catholic community. Their best seller was cod, and recipes to make lutefisk were given with each purchase. Mom learned how to prepare lutefisk, and it became a family staple. To this day I still enjoy going to area lutefisk dinner events, much to the surprise of my wife and friends.
The church-sponsored lutefisk feed held at the Eagles Club in Marshfield last fall was on my to-do list, and again I was not disappointed as I had my share of properly prepared lutefisk, lefse, Swedish meat balls, mashed potatoes, and rutabagas. A wide assortment of ethnic baked goods was also available.
My wife will include lutefisk along with liver, lamb, and venison as items she would not consider eating, but occasionally I will buy a frozen package of lutefisk and save it for a day when she is not home so that I can prepare it for myself.
Some Scandinavians will serve their native distilled liquor, aquavit, which is derived from potatoes or grains and flavored with caraway or dill. One sip of that liquor was enough for me, but I will always have room for the ethnic foods made available at these Marshfield events or in outlying communities.