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The Dreaded Lutefisk

One of the most common questions we get asked about living in Norway is, “What is the weirdest thing you’ve eaten there?” I think there’s just something about foreign countries that invokes images of strange and exotic foods and people have some strange desire to hear about it and get grossed out.

Norway definitely has some pretty strange foods compared to the US. A lot of it’s weirdness stems from the bygone necessity of preservation back in the old days. I tell you, Norwegians came up with the most creative ways to preserve and reconstitute food I have ever seen. There’s this salmon called “gravlaks” which literally translates to “grave salmon”. Traditionally, it was salted, buried in the ground, and left to ferment until it became super pungent and strong tasting. Yum.

Another one that is pretty common here in Southwestern Norway is lutefisk. Lutefisk is cod that has been hung out in the open air and dried for months like so:

Photograph by Peter Prokosch
The dried fish is then soaked in water and then in lye for a week until its structural proteins dissolve and it becomes a sort of fish-jelly (lutefisk directly translates to “lye fish”). Since now the fish is caustic from soaking in the lye, it is soaked again for another week in cold water to make it edible. THEN it is boiled or pan-fried until translucent and served with mustard, potatoes, and mushy peas. Seriously, who comes up with this stuff?? I want to go back in time to meet the first guy who thought, “Hey, what if I soaked my dried cod in toxic lye? Think it would be delicious?”

 

For some reason, lutefisk is a pretty traditional Christmas dish in this part of Norway. We’ve been hearing about it for years so we decided that this year was the year we were going to give it a try. Some good friends of ours really like it and eat it every Christmas, so we went with them to City Bistro which supposedly serves the best-prepared lutefisk in town. We figured if we were going to try reconstituted fish jelly, we might as well do it right. Apparently, it’s reputation is sound because you have to reserve a table for lutefisk in advance and when we tried a few weeks before Christmas they were fully booked until January! So we had a post-Christmas lutefisk celebration this year.

We were too apprehensive to order the full main-course lutefisk so we split the appetizer version. Our friends thought it was hilarious to watch “the Americans” try it for the first time.
But you know what? We actually really liked it! We were very surprised based on the horror stories we’ve heard, and we can only attribute it to the fact that we supposedly had the best-prepared lutefisk in town. But it was seriously enjoyable to eat and when we were served our main courses (catch-of-the-day and reindeer) we regretted that we only ordered the lutefisk appetizer. I think we’ll definitely be making this an annual Hill Christmas tradition!
And now we have a really good answer to the “what’s the weirdest thing you’ve eated in Norway” question :) Next on our list is smalahove (Google image it if you dare!)

 

 

Stockholm or BUST!

It takes 18 hours or so to drive from Stavanger to Stockholm. By some definite divine intervention, our plucky little station wagon made it to and from Sweden in one piece. We had some worrisome moments, but I tell ya…blessings come from going to the temple!

We carpooled with our friends Amerigo and Sarah and caravanned with the Steffensen clan. Amerigo and Sarah are originally from the Philipines, which meant that our car was full of a combination of English, Tagalog, and Norwegian the whole drive! So much fun!

Amerigo

 

Of course, we had to stop along the way for a Norwegian hot dog picnic.

Cousins

Rotten watermelon discus

Cousins

Mother and daughter.

 

We wound along the southern coast of Norway, stopping for church in Kristiansand along the way. It was a seriously gorgeous drive! We passed fjords, lakes, rivers, and countless waterfalls. I don't think I will get over how beautiful Norway is as long as we live here. We stopped for the night in Drammen (just outside of Oslo and about half-way to Stockholm) and stayed the night with our stake president's family.

Our stake prez. and wonderful son-in-law.

 

We crossed the border into Sweden the next day and the difference was strangely immediate. For one thing, the speed limit suddenly increased from 70 km/h to 110 km/h! (Go Sweden!) In addition, I had never noticed there were no billboards along the side of the roads in Norway until we started seeing them along the highway in Sweden. The landscape also suddenly became rather boring (sorry Sweden!). Where Norway is full of winding roads and small quaint towns, Sweden was one loooong tree-lined road. With red barns. Lots and lots of red barns.

Ikea in the Motherland!!

Speed bump tee hee hee! (yep, we're still 12 years old ladies and gentlemen)

 

Over the weekend.

The food/restaurant scene here in Stavanger has grown leaps and bounds since we first moved here in 2011. It’s really exciting! A lot of immigrants have taken the lack of culinary variety here (white fish, white potatoes, white sauce) as a challenge and have opened up a plethora of restaurants featuring various foods from their homelands. Chris pulled me out of my cake-stress funk this weekend and drove me to Sandnes to try such a place: Ibsen’s Fish and Chips!

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Now, we aren’t fish n’ chips connoisseurs or anything, but we’ve eaten our fair share of fish and chips in various parts of the world (including England and Scotland)… and Ibsen’s is the BEST we’ve ever had. Not even exaggerating. The fish was perfectly flaky and crunchy (and not a drip of greasy oil to be found!) while the chips were soft, juicy, and oh so vinegary! Chris normally doesn’t like salt and vinegar anything, but he gobbled up his own chips and then finished off mine! They were that good.

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Classic :)

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Fish bits w/ curry sauce, pickled onion and pickled egg compliments of the super-awesome chef.

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We might just become regulars :)

 

We also got to be there for Mandy and Daniel’s Gender Reveal Party for their little baby. At her ultrasound appointment a few weeks ago, Mandy had the doctor write down the gender of their baby and seal it up in an envelope to keep it secret. She then gave the envelope to me so I could bake a cake that was pink or blue on the inside, and I brought the cake to her party on Saturday where they cut into and found out they were having……

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A LITTLE GIRL!

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Congratulations Mandy and Daniel!!

We hope all you lovely readers had a great weekend too!

Love, Chris and Chelsea

 

 

The Marvelous Adventures of Julie K. Walton – Part 2

…Continued from The Marvelous Adventures of Julie K. Walton

Once Julie K. Walton arrived safely in Stavanger after her Norway In A Nutshell expedition, she quickly realized that her Norwegian adventures had only just begun. Together with Chelsea and Chris, she climbed mountains, gazed over perilous cliffs, traversed the fjords, surfed the North Sea, ate reindeer, celebrated Norway’s Constitution Day, and made lots of new friends. It was a grand adventure indeed!

Watch me on full screen mode :)

Click on the photo below to view in slideshow mode :)

 

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We love you Jules!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Last Christmas we were homeless. How’s THAT for a story to tell our kids years down the road?

Ok…it wasn’t as tragic as it sounds. We were in the midst of moving from Utah to Norway and had to give up our apartment contract the 2nd week of December. The rest of the month we bumped around between our parents’ houses in Utah and Vegas. No Christmas trees or decorations for us. So this year we are ready for First Christmas: Part 2!

We began this festive season with a big date night where we were going to bust out the Christmas decorations and drink hot chocolate and snuggle and watch The Muppets Christmas Carol (it’s NOT Christmas until the Muppets have been watched.) Full of Christmas cheer and excitement, we unearthed our box of Christmas stuff, ripped off the moving tape, flipped open the lid…..and suddenly realized that we didn’t really have any Christmas decorations. Oh yeah…we’re a newly married couple. We forgot :) Most of the things in the box were for a tree that would come later, so we hung up our stockings, set out a blanket and pillow from my grandma, and plopped down to start our movie. Christmas is so great!

 

So far we’ve been able to enjoy quite a few Christmas festivities. It’s really nice not having to worry about finals. And cleaning checks. And packing. It’s REALLY nice not to have to worry about packing.

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Old town Stavanger all decked out for the holidays.

 

Every year Stavanger creates Pepperkaker Byen (The Gingerbread Town). Kids and adults from all over town make pepperkaker houses (or trains, or oil rigs, or viking ships) and they gather them all together to create the gingerbread town. We took an evening and went to check it out!

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See anything familiar? A lady in our branch made it! The organizers were quite impressed and she was featured in the local newspaper here. Word even spread all the way to Salt Lake City! (Check out the article here) Way to represent, Elin!

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The NATO community organized a bus trip down to the big Christmas Market in Egersund. The weather was absolutely terrible (downpours every 10 minutes), but we loved the quaint little market!

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Chris’ coworker, Brandon, and little baby Jayden

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I tried traditional Norwegian rice pudding (risgrøt) for the first time and Chris got a GINORMOUS pølse (hot dog/sausage thing). Delicious!

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We also participated in our branch Christmas Concert. And by participated, I mean we made lots of snowflakes to help with the decorations. No singing for us this year!

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The youth and the missionaries.

 

And we bumped Skittles out of her corner and got all prepped for our very first Christmas tree! Stay tuned!

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