Step back in time for 1941 lutefisk supper

You may be planning to take in a church supper one of these days. These events, after all, have long been popular in towns around the area each fall.A story of one such supper was sent to Neighbors by Thomas and Colleen Witte, Sugar Land, Texas. ...

Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist

You may be planning to take in a church supper one of these days. These events, after all, have long been popular in towns around the area each fall.

A story of one such supper was sent to Neighbors by Thomas and Colleen Witte, Sugar Land, Texas. It comes from the Griggs County, N.D., Historical Society. It was written by Claire Jackson of Hannaford, N.D.

It's about the annual supper served by the Hannaford Lutheran Church Ladies' Aid on Nov. 7, 1941.

The main courses would be (rub your tummy, neighbor) lutefisk and Norwegian meatballs, along with such delicacies as sandbakkels, fattimand and pumpkin and apple pie. And, of course, lefse.

"Many people doubt that anyone but a woman of Norse ancestry can successfully make lefse," Claire wrote.


As to lutefisk for that supper, "Mrs. Johnny Haugen and Mrs. Marcus Bakken 'soaked and watered' it so as to get rid of the lye taste. Many wash tubs full of lutefisk are used at these suppers,' she wrote. "Shortly after the noon hour, the main committee (after having decorated the hall) return, and more of the Aid members arrive, each bringing her contributions of hot foods or cold. The country members bring rich cream and butter besides other foods.

"Here are Mrs. Skorheim, Mrs. Rasmus Olson and Mrs. Simonson peeling the tubs full of potatoes (whole boiled potatoes will be needed for the lutefisk, mashed potatoes for the meatballs). Mrs. Nels Anderson and Mrs. Otto Olson are cutting the pies. There must a hundred or more of them.

"Mrs. Bakken, the official coffee maker, makes the coffee in large two gallon coffee cans, the kinds used during threshing.

"In the dining room, three long tables, each seating 25 persons, covered with white linen tablecloths and resplendent with shining silverware and the best china in the neighborhood, are in preparation. Artificial flowers form the centerpieces.

"At 4:30, groups of people, laughing and talking, enter the hall. 'Is the supper soon ready?' asked Asher Anderson, the auctioneer, 'I am nearly starved. I've waited for this supper for a whole week. 'That's fine,' replied Edna Markuson, a waitress for the evening. 'We are glad you are hungry and I promise to feed you.'

"'I wonder if there will be a crowd from Cooperstown tonight? Dr. Almklove and his wife never miss one of our suppers,' said 86-year-old Louise Kaas, a retired school teacher.

"'I don't know,' said Mrs. Gust Fliflet; 'you know there is supper over at Glenfield tonight, too.'

"Promptly at 5 the folks, young and old, who hold numbers 1-75, take seats at the tables. Jennie Furaas collects the tickets. The waitresses bring the dishes of food.


"There are no prayers of grace or accompanying ceremonies, no speeches. Older people usually bow their heads in silent prayer.

"As soon as a person has finished his meal, he asks to be excused as he leaves the table and another takes his place, and this is continued until all are served.

"'It seems that every man, woman and child from the town and country are here tonight,' said George Mills, a farmer north of town.

"'It's all for a good cause; the church won't have to worry about coal bills this winter' said Mrs. Mabel Bye.

Cleaning up

"Here come folks from Cooperstown, the county seat 12 miles north, and they, too, are greeted with much handshaking. And yes, they include Dr. Almklov, the chairman of the county board of health.

"'Look who's here,' exclaims Claus Jackson, an ex-sheriff and former Cooperstown resident 'and it isn't even election year,' at which they all good-naturedly laugh.

"'You haven't eaten all the lutefisk, have you, Claus?' asks Dr. Almklov. 'Nearly,' Claus' wife says, 'but I knew you'd come so I left one piece for you.'


"'Is everything donated?' asked a guest from California who was visiting in a nearby town. 'Of all the food served,' replied Mrs. Hoffman, the Aid treasurer, 'only the meat and lutefisk are purchased.'

"'Lars, have you butchered that hog yet?' asked Hilmer Rasmussen, 'No,' said Lars Lerum, 'I am waiting for colder weather. I have to wait until Mrs. Olson can come and help the missus can the meat. You see, we men always have to wait for the ladies,' at which there was much friendly laughter.

"' What is your job tonight?' called a woman from Union (a rural settlement east of town) to Mrs. Hareland. 'Oh, I keep the dishes clean,' she replied. 'The dishes are washed while the supper is served. I am the official dishwasher this evening. Oh yes, I have help. There are four of us so we take turns. It's really fun.'

"'Are they cleaning up the hall tonight?' asked Nora Bjor. 'Oh, no,' Mrs. Hareland replied. 'We all come back tomorrow and scrub and wash dishes, then have a cup of coffee together and have such a good time talking while working.'

"'Did these suppers originate in Norway?' asked Minnie Anderson, a teacher. 'Oh no,' replied Rev. Lee, the pastor of the congregation. 'The church supper of today probably traces its origin to the American Thanksgiving feast. It was not known in the Old Country, but here it became instantly popular and it is a good thing. There must be a social side to the church.'

"What is done with the money ($140) that you raised this evening?' asked Mrs. Pearson, a Minnesota resident.

"'The Society (Ladies Aid) gives $100 toward the church budget.' Pastor Lee said, 'puts aside a certain sum in the sinking fund and sends not a little to the Orphans Home at Lake Park, Minn.

"'Do you issue invitations to these suppers?' asked the guest from California.


'Oh no, ' the Ladies Aid's president said. 'A week before the supper we put a notice in the local newspaper'

Until next year

"At nine o'clock the following day, one might see groups of women meeting again at the hall to put everything in 'spic and span' order. While talking over the success of their supper, they have coffee and refreshments. If no cookies or lefse was left, some of the members bring a plate of cookies or doughnuts.

"So ends another annual supper and happy memories of it linger on with everyone feeling he has done 'his small bit' for a worthy cause," Claire concludes.

Oh yes, another thing. What was the price of that huge meal?

A whopping 40 cents for adults and 25 cents for kids.

And one more thing:

Exactly one month after this supper, Pearl Harbor was attacked.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email .

Opinion by Bob Lind
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