Food

Bad Holiday Food: Tried Some Of That Lutefisk?

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We've heard about good holiday foods, now it's time for the bad: Listeners share their tales of unappetizing seasonal dishes, from Jello with mayonnaise to heavy candied fruit bread to that dried Scandinavian delicacy, lutefisk.

AUDIE CORNISH, host:

What would the holidays be without good food: Christmas ham, sugar cookies, gingerbread, champagne on New Year's Eve, then black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Years Day?

We heard about some of the mouth-watering fare last week. But this week, we've asked you to tell us about the other kind - the stomach-churning kind. Those dreaded dishes that return to the table year after year after year.

James Farwel(ph) of Fairfield, Connecticut, writes: My sister-in-law makes a Jell-O mold with suspended Mandarin oranges with a special twist. The mold she uses makes an impression of a Christmas tree on top, which she fills with mayonnaise.

Ms. DONNA ELLERY(ph): I'm Donna Ellery of McAdough Falls(ph), Vermont, and I can only tell you this now because my grandmother is dead. Every Christmas, my children and I, we would receive at least one of these huge loaves of candied fruit bread. Everything was in that bread. We couldn't understand why they were so heavy. They were so heavy. They were un-edible, they were so heavy. You didn't dare to want to eat one.

CORNISH: One thing Gregory Blue(ph) of Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, doesn't dare eat anymore: rouladen. His wife makes it every year, supposedly from a family recipe brought over from the old country. Blue writes, it begins with what always seemed to me as an overpriced piece of beef thinly sliced and cured so as to render it dry. You then slice a carrot stick and quarter a dill pickle so that the two pieces are approximately the same size.

Blue goes on to tell us, the beef is rolled up with the carrot and the pickle inside, along with a slice of bacon and toothpicks keep the wraps together. And then, into the Crock-pot they go. He continues, you add enough canned golden mushroom soup to cover all the wraps and hide the flavor of the beef in the event that the pickle juice and bacon would not already accomplish that goal. You let them slow cook in the Crock-pot until the meat becomes unrecognizable and turns to mush.

Gregory Blue concludes, I have yet to decide whether this recipe has been modernized or that my wife's family actually believes that 18th century Europe had access to canned golden mushroom soup, toothpicks and Crock-pots.

Mr. JOHN ANDERSON(ph): Well, it probably wasn't until the third consecutive year we had lutefisk for Christmas that I realized the Vikings sailed icy oceans not in search of riches and conquest, but rather for decent food.

CORNISH: That's John Anderson of Washington D.C. with his bad holiday food.

Mr. ANDERSON: Lutefisk is a dried whitefish soaked in lime. And as the song goes: oh, lutefisk, it looks like glue and tastes like a shoe. By the time we had it for a fourth consecutive Christmas, I asked everyone in the family at the dinner table if anyone really liked it. Even my grandfather, a die-hard Swede and for whom the dish was prepared, a man who once ate carp and liked it, confessed to having trouble getting past the third bite.

That same year my mother had been in contact with a distant relative in Osteraker and she asked what they did to make lutefisk more enjoyable. She learned that since refrigerators became widely accessible, hardly anyone in Sweden ate lutefisk. I believe the combination of the two revelations that year prevented the meal from finding its way onto the dinner table a fifth year.

(Soundbite of song "Oh, Lutefisk")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) You smell so strong you look like glue, you taste just like an (unintelligible) shoe. Oh, lutefisk come Saturday I think I'll eat you anyway.

CORNISH: That's a trio of anonymous young ladies from YouTube performing that classic sing-along "Oh, Lutefisk." Thank you for sending in your bad holiday food stories. We did enjoy them in a stinky cheese kind of way.

(Soundbite of song, "Oh, Lutefisk")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) ...how well I do remember. On Christmas Eve how we (unintelligible) our big tree of December. It wasn't turkey or fried ham, it wasn't seasoned...

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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