Being Norwegian can be tough this time of year.
    This fact was slammed home recently when my wife and I went on a grocery hunting expedition. There in the supermarket’s freezer case – I could scarcely believe my great fortune! – was a pile of frozen lutefisk TV dinners.
    I know a good thing when I see it, so I began to fill our shopping cart.     
    “What are you doing?” my wife exclaimed.     
    “Isn’t this fantastic?” I replied enthusiastically. “With these in the freezer, I can have a Norwegian Christmas dinner the year ‘round! Give me a hand, there’s only 20 or so left.”     
    She whacked me upside the head with a box of Twinkies.
    “Put those back!” she ordered. “I’m not letting that icky stuff back into the house again.”     
    The holiday season is upon us, arriving with all of those holiday stresses and strains such as cleaning the house for the relatives, cooking banquet-sized meals for the relatives and putting up with the relatives’ bratty kids. Other than that, this is a relatively carefree time of year.     
    One of the biggest sources of stress around my household during this season involves the cultural chasm that exists between my wife and me, that hot-button issue called lutefisk.     
    For the uninitiated, lutefisk starts out as big honking fillets of fresh North Atlantic cod. As delectable as this might be, the Norwegian mindset demands that one must take a good thing and improve upon it.
    The cod fillets are aged in the sun for a spell (cynics call this letting it rot). The thin-as-a-shingle and stiff-as-a-board chunks of fish are rehydrated in a vat of lye water (apostates call this soaking it in poison).
    All that is left is to carefully rinse out the lye, boil the fish briefly, drown the translucent, gelatinous substance in melted butter and ... mmm! My mouth waters at the mere thought of this gastronomic delicacy.    
    When my wife and I were newlyweds, we decided to host a holiday get-together for our families. On the appointed day my wife was a blur of frenetic activity, scurrying about, cooking, cleaning, accumulating an aura of stress in the same manner that a powerful magnet attracts iron filings.
    I remained the epitome of cool and calm as I sat sipping a cold one while keeping tabs on the score of an important televised sporting event.     
    “Slow down,” I advised from my perch on the couch. “We have a couple of hours before they get here. And you know how it goes: everyone’s going to stand around for a while and yak about how little Sara has grown and so on. I wouldn’t even start to boil the spuds until they arrive.”     
    My wife suddenly turned a whiter shade of pale.
    “Potatoes,” she exclaimed. “I knew I forgot something! I need to go to the store. You watch things in the kitchen while I’m gone.”     
    She sprinted to the car and tore off in a spray of gravel. This reminded me that drag racing would be on ESPN later that day.
    I assumed command of the kitchen and swiftly appraised the situation. Everything seemed to be in order except for one glaring deficiency: there was not any lutefisk.     
    Fortunately, I had taken the precaution of secretly procuring a hefty slab of lutefisk a few days earlier. I soon had the lutefisk nestled happily in a pot of boiling water.     
    When my wife jogged back into the house a short while later, she abruptly sat down in a chair and began to cry. I gave her a comforting hug.
    “I know,” I said soothingly. “Holiday stress can bring a person down.”     
    “It’s not that,” she sobbed. “Why did our stupid sewer decide to back up today?”
    I replied that I couldn’t smell anything amiss. In an effort to lift her spirits, I showed her my culinary masterpiece.
    “Gross,” she said. “So that’s what stinks! Don’t tell me you’re going to eat that. It smells like it belongs in a toxic waste dump.”     
    When our guests arrived, a pattern quickly emerged. My relatives would enter our house, take a deep whiff and say, “Mmm, smells like the holidays.” My wife’s relatives would wrinkle up their noses and ask if something had died.     
    Our relatives segregated into two groups. Mine gathered in the dining room and noshed the day away. Hers hung by the windows, making a big show of inhaling outside air.     
    This explains why I have to cheat on my wife, in a manner of speaking. I wonder. Can you thaw frozen lutefisk by holding it under your armpit? In any case, I don’t think it would adversely affect the flavor.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.