Thursday, February 09, 2006

Penitential Food

I was reading through a guidebook for Scandinavia today (our next big trip) and came across the following bit:
Most Scandinavian nations have one inedible dish that is cherished with a perverse but patriotic sentimentality. These dishes, which often originated during a famine, now remind the young of their ancestors' suffering. Norway's penitential food, lutefisk (dried cod marinated for days in lye and water), is used for Christmas and jokes.
Having been faced with lutefisk, I can attest to the "and jokes" part of the description, and I think that the description "penitential food" covers it pretty well. (Of course, lefse makes up for the boiled-in-lye fish, if you ask me).

Other countries have the same kinds of food, though. Haggis in Scotland, for example. Kimchi in Korea. Or French dishes involving brains or something. Ugh! Some national dishes are awfully good, too - Mole sauce in Mexico, Paella in Spain, the ubiquitous Pizza Magherita in Italy, but I was inspired by the sentimental and usually inedible dishes that seem to pop up as a "national dish". I shall have to find more of them.

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