If history is correct, more than 150,000 pounds of lutefisk have been ordered and served to nearly a quarter of a million folks over nearly three quarters of a Century.
That my friends is a lot of dead weight that has been consumed, not to mention the butter.
This feast is one that leaves many Norwegians, along with those who have a hunger to be a Norsk, satisfying their appetites for yet another year.
The time is drawing near for another community gathering as the First Lutheran Church of Williston is stirring with action, as preparations for the 74th Annual Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner are under way.
It all officially begins with serving at 11 a.m. on Saturday and generally runs until 7 p.m., with delivery to end at 5 p.m., while takeouts are cut off at 6 p.m.
For takeouts and delivery you can ring up 577-6365 to enjoy a taste of this major celebration.
Reports indicate some 2,500 pounds of that lutefisk are heading this way.
Research tells us the stock fish is a cod, which is first shipped to a plant in St. Paul, Minn.
From there a three to four week soaking process in lye and a water substance produces a lively filet, which are then put into barrels of water.
Those barrels are then loaded on a truck and sent on the next portion of the journey to reach here.
Are you still with me?
Once at the church here, work crews are in position to cut the filets into sizes for serving and then placed in fresh water.
That all leads up to turning up the heat and the next step is serving up some piping hot lutefisk.
Can it be any better than that? Of course it can, as you add the butter and all the fixings that compliment the meal.
THROW IN MEATBALLS
For those who may not be up to the lutefisk, or for those who simply want a two-course meal, some tasty meatballs are a part of this meal.
When you add in the gravy and potatoes, there's not much room left on your plate.
But then again, there's always room on the side for some lefse.
Once you have loosened your belt a notch or two there still may be room for some rice pudding, with a delightful plum sauce, making it all worthwhile.
NO EASY PROCESS
This day serves not only a time to eat, but it offers a time for friends from around the area to come together as one.
In order to do that, up to 600 volunteers from First Lutheran Church, along with a large number of non-members who are called upon for this huge undertaking.
OVERSEE THE EVENT
Ron Lund and Mark Stenehjem have been long associated with spearheading the effort, along with JoAnn Olson and Lorna Easton making sure no stone is left unturned.
“We serve as a sounding board and work with the great committees,” said Lund.
“Generally we can give folks a list and forget about it but there are a lot of details.”
Among the little things for committee chairs to do is order the fish along with some nearly 700 pounds of hamburger to roll into meatballs.
That's a lot of meatballs.
A NEW COMPANY
However, this year organizers at First Lutheran will have to deal with a new lutefisk company since the passing of Mike Field, who added a personal touch to the event each year.
Field, who operated his lutefisk company out of Glenwood, Minn., was unable to be here last year and he passed on shortly after the event last February.
Since that time the family owned business has been sold to Olson's Fish Company located in St. Paul, Minn.
That company will ship the 2,500 pounds of lutefisk, expected to arrive here by truck on Thursday.
SHELDON ADDS SPUDS
Bill Sheldon, a Nesson Valley farmer, really adds to the event as he donates some 1,800 pounds of potatoes from his homegrown fields.
Sheldon delivered the spuds on Tuesday and a crew will be on standby to begin turning the potatoes into lefse on Thursday.
“We are very grateful for the potatoes,” said Lund.
With the plum sauce already prepared, the rice pudding and meatballs will come together on Friday, leading up to serving some 3,000 guests.
Along with serving at the church, delivery and takeouts are available, while the members provide the delicacy for the good folks at Bethel Lutheran Home.
HELP WEST PRAIRIE
Following the tragic loss of the West Prairie Lutheran Church this will be a time for friends to reach out and lend a helping hand in the restoration effort.
Lund indicated they would be seeking some matching funds which in turn hopefully will be available to the reconstruction efforts.
The feed generally serves as a fund-raiser for First Lutheran Church, however, the proceeds do not go into the general fund.
Instead, they are used for things like the window project and other worthy needs, including youth programs.
VERY LONG TIME
Closing in on three quarters of a century, it's fun to look back on this event that has withstood the test of time, and then some.
We can do that, thanks to the help of former Williston resident Dick LeDosquet, who now resides in Layton, Utah.
LeDosquet, 83, who will be on hand for the feed, has fond memories of the event.
He recalls it was 74 years ago the Sons of Norway assembled in the basement of the First Lutheran Church located on the corner of Sixth Street and 1st Avenue West in Williston to plan the very first lutefisk dinner.
“The date for this gastronomical event was set for Feb. 18, 1933,” said LeDosquet.
He related that, “Notably among these true Vikings from the Land of the Midnight Sun were: John Larvick, Ole Johnson, Hjalmar Sundet, Torger Hofengen, Albert Livdahl, Ole Lesterberg, Hjalmer Borud, Carl Sathre, Peter Dahlen, Algot Peterson, Raynald Skjei and Gerhardt Stenehjem.”
LeDosquet went on to say, “With Scandinavian names like these how could they not have in their genes the yearning for this very rare dish called lutefisk?”
SHARE WITH OTHERS
Everything has a beginning.
These folks not only loved it, but wanted to share it with others, including the whole town of Williston and beyond.
Now that's real love.
LeDosquet tells us lutefisk, also known as “lye fish,” must surely be the strangest culinary creation credited to the Norwegians.
He relates, “Lutefisk is actually cod fish treated with lye made from wood ashes. This ancient recipe may actually turn some of the less daring away from ever tasting this tantalizing treat…even those who today bear the surnames of their daring pioneer ancestors.”
THE FIRST DINNER
We understand there are not many living today who remember this first lutefisk dinner in Williston, but Jim Snyder and LeDosquet, then nine years old, recall it very well.
Word has it they and several others of the newly formed Williston Junior Band were invited by Kristian Monson to play solos on their horns while the crowd of Willistonites gathered for the feast.
Other band members who played on that memorable evening and there may have been others, were Phillip Stenehjem and Alton Lee.
BRINGS TOWN TOGETHER
Much like Saturday, the first lutefisk dinner seemed to bring the whole town together and feeding was an all day event.
“Some of the more valiant connoisseurs came for lunch and returned again for supper. All religious and ethnic groups were well represented at the feast and this unifying tradition has continued over the past 74 years,” said LeDosquet.
CHANGE OF MENU
The menu has changed very little since the first meals were served, according to LeDosquet.
Of course the main entree on the menu is lutefisk, but lutefisk cannot be eaten without its traditional companion …. lefse.
Lefse is the Norwegian version of bread and according to most Norskes is food fit for a king.
We'll second that motion.
Meanwhile, lutefisk and lefse go together like love and marriage, as vouched by the most enthusiastic “fisk” lovers, or so LeDosquet claims.
NOT FOR EVERYBODY
LeDosquet notes not everyone is a devotee of lutefisk, in fact some decry the odor and jelly-like texture and claim it is a national disgrace.
For those of this different taste, Norwegian Meatballs (not Swedish) and gravy is the second entree.
The menu continues with heaping bowls of boiled potatoes and cabbage cole slaw.
At the original lutefisk dinner an assortment of desserts were displayed for the feaster's choice.
These delicacies included: Julekaker (Christmas Bread), Rosetter (Rosettes), Fattigman (Poorman), Krumkaker (Crumb Cake), Vannbakkels (Cream Puffs), Peppematter (Pepper Nuts) and many others. Ris Kiem (Rice Cream) was among the favorite desserts and remains so today.
So the memories and traditions that date back to those planning and dining days of 1933 will be relived as First Lutheran Church hosts the 74th Lutefisk Dinner on Saturday in the church parlors at 9th and Main Street in Williston.
LeDosquet and his good friend Jim Snyder will return home just in time to enjoy the meal and add to their memory banks.
RETURN BY TRAIN
Now retired, LeDosquet loves to spend time back here.
It was back in 1947 when LeDosquet attended Utah State School of Agriculture and earned a degree in forestry.
His time was spent out west and in Alaska where he worked as a forester and managed all kinds of projects from timber sales and work with the Bureau of Land Management and was involved in land transfers.
While in Alaska he was involved in the Trans Atlantic Pipeline.
His work in Boise, Idaho, led to him retiring from the inter-agency fire center, a group that works to provide support for fighting forest fires.
At the time of his employment he was an associate director and director at the time of his retirement.
LEFT FOR WAR
LeDosquet was one of the young men, joining all those who were able, from Williston who was called to serve his country in 1941.
While in the Army he served until the end of the war, being involved in landings in New Guinea and the Philippines, while operating landing crafts.
With the peace agreement signed on Sept. 2, 1945 it was seven days later he became a part of the occupation force at Yokohama, Japan.
ON TO COLLEGE
Following his service LeDosquet went on to attend the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University for pre-forestry prior to his shift to Utah.
Once he graduated, his work took him to Idaho, where he resided until the move back to Utah in 1990.
His wife of 55 years Sarah (Quinney) of Logan, Utah, passed away and he made a move to be closer to his children with three in the state of Washington and one in Utah.
FIND WAY BACK
Having made the trek here last year, LeDosquet notes it's hard to get to Williston as they must first take a bus to Great Falls, Mont., while traveling by automobile to Shelby, Mont., to catch a lift on Amtrak.
All that effort for some Lutefisk!
LeDosquet recalled being born and raised here with his family pioneers of the LeDosquet Addition which was made up of some 142 acres of the area from 2nd Avenue West and further on.
LeDosquet considers the event here a “marvelous tradition” and is looking forward to being home once again.
SCHLAG TO PERFORM
The tradition of having music will come to life this time out as Jerry Schlag of Minot and friends will be in town to entertain the guests for a portion of the day.
Schlag, of Norsk Hostfest fame, will offer some good accordion music to help soothe the flow of the Lutefisk.
A little toe tapping will only add to the day.
This days offers a lot of good fun and fellowship, something this community is famous for.
Along with all of this you can wander down to the end of Main and check out the Scandinavian Heritage Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
This free event was started to compliment the feast and give folks a place to sit and relax and be entertained.
We'll tell you more about that event in our Friday Scope along with the Church Basement Ladies.
GY TO PLAY
The air should be clear in the sanctuary of First Lutheran Church by 4 p.m. on Sunday when as Gy Salvevold will present an informal piano recital.
This talented pianist from Culbertson, Mont., will present this recital for your enjoyment.
He is preparing for an audition at the Mannes School of Music in New York City and would like to play these pieces prior to his audition.
That's where you come in.
No doubt many have heard him perform before, and here's your opportunity to lend an ear during this free recital.
Audition pieces are by J.S. Bach, Yaydn, Rachmaninoff and Ravel.
He will add for your enjoyment “The Banjo” by Gottschalk and “Elegy” by Rachmaninoff.
This weekend is shaping up to be one to remember and this seems a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.