Mom, Wife, Chef, Gardener, Dog Wrangler, Mom, Writer, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Mom, Creative Problem Solver, DIY Chick...figuring out life one day at a time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mom/adventuress...a lutefisk interlude

A lutefisk interlude…

I had meant to write about this in the archeologist post, but that post decided to spiral off in a direction that didn’t include gelatinous fish, so here it is in another post. Last Sunday our landlord invited us to attend his church’s Lutefisk Feast with him. He’s been alone out here for awhile and I think he loves having someone to drop in on and to show off the town to. Since we’d spent the weekend cleaning, we decided a break sounded great and so off we went to the Cut Bank Lutheran Church’s Lutefisk Feast. Held every year during the holidays, with proceeds benefiting the churches’ charitable endeavors, the Lutefisk Feast is a true community event. There are a sizable number of Scandinavian families that helped to settle this area so the Lutheran Church and their events are well attended. After we made the rounds and got introduced to half the people there we sat down to eat. Now, in case you have no idea what we were in store for, lutefisk is a traditional Scandinavian method of preserving cod or other whitefish. The fish is soaked in Lye, which preserves it for a long time. It is then soaked for days to get the lye out and then cooked. The resulting fish has a distinct gelatinous texture and appearance. I really wish I had taken a picture of the table, set out family style, but since I’m not fully back into blogger mode and because I was trying to wrangle two fussy, overwhelmed kids I give you this picture of a lutefisk feast plate instead, courtesy of

The lutefisk is the pale, gelatinous blob in the front left hand side of the plate. Also included on our plates were mashed rutabagas (orange shown above) a delicious cabbage slaw (above), lefse: a potato flatbread that deserves its own blog post because it is so yummy (also shown above), boiled potatoes, Swedish meatballs, and pickled herring. Everything was delicious, yes, even the lutefisk. You pour melted butter over the top and add plenty of salt and pepper. If you can get past the texture, which is very soft and mildly jello-ish then the flavor is pure cod and very good. The thing about lutefisk is, though, that you are eating it and thinking to yourself, “this isn’t bad, in fact it’s pretty good.” Then all of a sudden the texture hits you and you are done. Tim and I ate everything; Harper loved the rutabagas and the potatoes. Connor ate a roll and a bunch of cookies, but he’s 2 ½ so what are you going to do? At least he wasn’t having a complete tantrum melt down in front of everyone. You’ve got to pick your battles.

I should mention that the other fish featured, the pickled herring, was firm, not fishy, just lightly vinegary and Tim and I both ate a bunch. I kick myself for not getting the recipe because it was totally homemade. Just a nod also to the delicious cookies, anyone who has been lucky enough to experience Scandinavian cookies, specifically the rosettes (made by dipping a hot flower shaped iron in thin batter and frying it in oil so they come out as these light, crispy shells that are covered in powdered sugar) and the krumkake (like a tuille cookie cooked on a special waffle iron and then bent around a cone, often filled with something else, like a Swedish cannoli) knows what I am talking about, so good!

So far we are really enjoying it here in Montana; we have met lovely people and enjoyed some unique events. I look forward to what else this community has to offer. And next year I’m totally getting the recipe for that pickled herring.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mom/Archeologist…sifting through other peoples’ lives…

So we spent last weekend deep cleaning and clearing out the house. As I said before, this house is chock full of other people’s lives. Our landlord’s parents and then brother lived in this house and most of their belongings remain. Drawers, cabinets and shelves are full of remainders of those other lives and must be sorted through and cleaned out if we are going to start this next phase of our life here. Among the dust, cobwebs and detritus we are clearing out are hidden gems that give us a picture of what life was like as mostly self-sufficient grain farmers on the prairies of Montana. From the bathroom cabinets: a large metal first aid kit full of tinctures and swabs I don’t recognize, a poison control pamphlet taped to the cabinet door that gives remedies for ingesting anything from fertilizers to cleaners to medicines. For instance, if Lye is ingested give the victim 2 Tablespoons of vinegar in a glass of water or 2 raw egg whites in olive oil and do not induce vomiting. I’m not sure how this jives with today’s poison control guidelines, but it is fascinating.

In the kitchen are more hidden gems: an old and well loved cast iron skillet; colorful Pyrex casserole bowls from the 40’s; and a drawer full of cookbooks, most of them hand bound, self published fund raiser recipe collections from local churches and women’s groups in the area. These I am keeping in the house, to enjoy leafing through recipes for salads, baked goods, local game, and drinks such as the local version of the hot toddy: the Tom & Jerry.

While I treasure some of these things for their uniqueness or as a link to the rich past of an area I now call home, what they really are, are memories of lives that I won’t ever be able to know. I can admire the colorful threads and half finished cross stitch in an old sewing box, but I’ll never know the woman who sat in this living room sewing. Did she smile as children roamed noisily around her or sit quietly chatting with her husband about the events of the day?  Did she love living so far away from town, seeing only her family day in and day out?  Or did she feel isolated and cut off from the world?

Maybe I ask these questions because they now concern me as well. Will I like living a 15 minute drive from stores and people? Will being alone out here gel us as a family or cause tension and friction? Can we be more self-sufficient, can I learn to rely on myself and my instincts and creativity rather than drive into town every time I get bored or I realize I’m missing just one little ingredient for that dish I want to make? All questions that I don’t yet know the answer to. As they say, time will tell. Meanwhile I will sit here, sifting through drawers, imagining what memories we will build here, in our new lives, here in this house.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mom/adventuress...a new post from our new outpost

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. For years Tim and I talked about moving somewhere out of the way, I imagined a little farmhouse away from everything where the kids and the dogs could run and play and we weren’t bothered by neighbors who were too loud, sold drugs, partied, hated our dogs, etc. (We’ve had a string of bad neighbors, and only one or two really good ones) For some reason we had settled on Montana, and we had even tried to get a job in Montana before, when we were still in the culinary field. Fast forward several years, a career change and one excruciatingly long drive and here we are, Montana.

When I look out my windows, all I see is blue sky and rolling hills, sunlight glinting off the frosted grass. Windmills dot the horizon. The thermometer outside said 15 degrees this morning and it is only November. The air is so dry I am constantly putting on lotion and always feel thirsty. It is a far cry from the dense forests and mild dampness I grew up in.

The house is exactly like visiting your grandparent’s farmhouse, complete with 70’s d├ęcor and shag carpet. When they said it was fully furnished they weren’t kidding, the house is full of books, knick knacks, linens, and it is overwhelming. I have to pack up someone else’s belongings just to move mine in. Still, the kitchen is huge, with a beautiful old linoleum floor. Our landlord said we can use what we want and he’ll store the rest, we can paint if we want, he is just happy to have the company, I think. He is our only neighbor, an elderly farmer whose family worked this land for several generations. The road is named after his family. We like him and so does our dog Toby. Wherever we have lived, Toby has found an old man to befriend. Good thing Toby likes our neighbor; he is the only one for five miles.

There is so much to do. The amount of cleaning and packing and unpacking feels overwhelming. As I unloaded the car that first day I had a panicked litany running through my head, “what did we do, what did we do, oh gods all our friends and family are so far away, what did we do????” A few nights of sleep have helped erased the litany but doubt still remains. We are alone in another state, another world, really. Did we do the right thing? Suddenly there’s no back up, no safety net for those days when I just can’t take one more tantrum. Still, Montana is beautiful. The moon last night was almost otherworldly as it sailed, full and shining, over the plains, turning everything silver and lovely. If I look west I can see the Rockies, snow covered and brushing the sky. This is not just a move for a new job, it is a trial. A test to see if we can walk the walk, after years of nothing but talk. It is a trial we are undertaking with open eyes and open arms but only time will tell if getting what we wanted is a good thing.
a view of the full moon from our front door.