09 August 2005

Röttænfisks wake

“Bjørgen Röttænfisk has been killed by wild lemmings.” Announced Gretchen “We must go to the traditional Norwegian wake.”

I agreed. I’m all for wakes. I vaguely remember some of the family wakes that I’ve been to in the last week, and what little I can recollect seemed like a good time.

The widow met us at the door. She was carrying a tumbler of thick yellow liquor.

“Come, we shall feast on pickled herring, lutefisk, lignonberries and akvavit.” She said.

I was familiar with pickled herring, but the others were new to me. How bad can they be, I thought. This was a wake after all.

Lutefisk, as it turns out, is dried cod that has been soaked in sodium hydroxide, then boiled. The finished lutefisk has the consistency of gelatin; three-days-in-the-sun fishy lye flavoured gelatin at that. It tastes as almost as good as it smells, and it smells like someone left a chili-cheese omlette in a gym shoe for a month.

Lignonberries are small, bitter as hell and will stain the inside of an automobile a brilliant vermillion, when mixed with stomach acid and ethanol, then applied under high pressure. More on that later.

Akvavit is Norwegian for “Water of Death” and is about 70% ethanol, the rest being a mixture of methanol, ether and petroleum jelly. It is flavoured with caraway seeds, and upon very special occasions, linseed oil, turpentine and flannel lint. Apparently, Bjørgen’s death is just such a special occasion.

I fought to keep the disgust from my face. Amazingly, the foods complement each other, and the Akvavit cuts the astringency of the lutefisk nicely. Cunning folk, these Norwegians. I poured myself another glass, and got some more “food” to wash the liquor down. The stuff grows on you like necrotizing fasciitis.

After round three, I was dancing with the widow. I don’t dance. Ever.

After round four, I was dancing with the corpse. Gretchen ruled out round five, but by then I had found the pizza and beer that the Norwegians had hidden from us.

“We don’t eat that traditional stuff.” They admitted sheepishly. “We feed that crap to the gringos.” Lemming molesters.

We celebrated Bjørgen’s life through the last of the alcohol and three noise citations. Eventually, the police ordered us to leave and called a string of none too happy cabbies.

“Jesus Christ, another bunch of drunken foreigners” Growled our surly driver. We ignored him, but the muttering grew increasingly persistent and annoying. There’s only so much an evil scientist can take.

“Hey friend, do you have room up there for a six pack of beer, a pizza, a bottle of Akvavit and some lutefisk?” I asked innocently.

“Yeah….” He replied, not sure where this was going. Too late.

Ah well, I needed the exercise, and the fresh air did me a world of good. In fact, the whole evening was a blast. I am really looking forward to the next lemming related fatality.

I just need to remember to avoid the fishy smelling taxi with the red upholstery.

And that's the way I likes it.