Annual Nordic Lodge dinner celebrates the love of lutefisk

— Created January 24, 2024 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the lure of lutefisk cannot be denied for many people of Scandinavian heritage.

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge
The chefs of the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge in Coupeville will serve up a traditional Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner Saturday. Lefse, potatoes, vegetables and a traditional dessert will also be served.

The Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge, 63 Jacobs Road in Coupeville, is holding its fourth annual Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner Saturday and will host three different seatings at which to enjoy a traditional feast of lutefisk. While it is too late to get a ticket to this year’s dinner, those curious about it can make a note to attend next year’s dinner. There will, however, be a bake sale of traditional Scandinavian treats going on in conjunction with the dinner from about noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, to which anyone interested may stop by. Visit for more information.

One doesn’t need to be of Scandinavian descent to know what lutefisk is, but just in case, event organizers told Whidbey Weekly via email it’s a dish with a long history.

“Lutefisk has been a part of the Christmas season for as long as I can remember,” shared Brian Petersen, member of the Nordic Lodge and head of the dinner’s planning committee. “My mother made it for Christmas when I was a child. It is my understanding that the tradition was brought to the U.S. by Scandinavian immigrants.”

Lutefisk is whitefish – typically cod – that has been dried, then soaked in water and lye for several days before being rinsed, soaked again, and cooked before serving. Lutefisk aficionados claim it doesn’t have much flavor on its own and by the time preparation is finished, it is said to have a rather gelatinous texture.

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge
More than 200 people are expected to partake of a Scandinavian delicacy at the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge’s fourth annual Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner Saturday in Coupeville.

None of this has done much to shore up its reputation.

“I think lutefisk gets a bad rap because of the way it used to be prepared, and the texture of the fish is unusual,” Petersen said. “I don’t know if I can describe it very well, but to me it has a
somewhat ‘Jello-y’ texture and by itself has very little actual flavor. It’s the butter, white sauce and bacon bits put over the fish that gives it a taste.”

Just how the recipe for Lutefisk came to be created is somewhat of a mystery. Some legends claim it was created when Vikings burned down a neighboring village. Rain put the fire out, but fish that had been drying on racks was left submerged in the wet ashes (which produces lye). When it was discovered, the fish was rinsed and cooked. Other stories say ashes were mixed into the water when the dried fish was being reconstituted. Whether either story is true, it is fact that lye has been used to make lutefisk for years, although the process has been refined over time.

“The old methods of making lutefisk are different than today, and I believe what used to be ‘hold your nose’ has become quite palatable,” said Peterson, who went on to describe what the Nordic Lodge’s dinner also includes.

“The menu is Lutefisk, Swedish meatballs in gravy, which is again a traditional meal item,” he said. “Potatoes and a vegetable round out the meal. We will also have coleslaw and another Scandinavian delicacy, pickled herring, all accompanied by lefse, a Scandinavian flat bread, and a desert of Riskrem, which is a rice pudding with a dollop of loganberry jam.”

Photo Courtesy of Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge
Fun is the name of the game at the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge, which will serve its annual Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner Saturday. It is too late to purchase dinner tickets, but a Scandinavian bake shop will be open to the public from noon to 4 p.m.

The annual Lutefisk dinner, which began in 2019, serves as a fundraiser for the Nordic Lodge as well as an event that helps the lodge fulfill its mission.

“This event is important for our lodge and the community, as it is one of our missions to expose the community to Nordic culture, and this is one way of doing that,” said Petersen. “It is a fundraiser to help keep our lodge financially sound and allow us to contribute to the community.”

Petersen said he thinks people enjoy coming to the annual dinner simply because it’s a lot of fun.

“It is an opportunity for Scandinavians (and others) to gather and enjoy Scandinavian food, music, laughter and mingle with others of the same heritage and/or interests,” he said. “For others who have not taken the opportunity to taste lutefisk and experience Nordic food or even visit our sale of Scandinavian baked goods you cannot find in the grocery store, we say
‘Please join us. You are welcome.’” Learn more about the Whidbey Island Nordic Lodge and future events like the Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner by going to