Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online


Long, long ago, in the sunny days when online journals had content and there were not so many spambots and Russian trolls in the world, I had a rich, full life on LiveJournal. I lived alone, and those were the years of a messy breakup and a compulsive hobby,  so I wrote all the time, though not only about those, thank God. I had also been acquiring Scandinavian cookbooks, so I kept up a sporadic series of posts on the Foods of my People — and occasionally the Foods of My People’s Neighbors, Sweden.

It may have started with blodpølse, a dish so horrifying that I couldn’t help myself. But no: I think it was lutefisk. I grew up with lutefisk, so I was surprised that other people were unfamiliar with it, and further, that when I mentioned what it was, people seemed…critical about the whole undertaking. So I posted a recipe, and then people were even less excited. Here you go:


* 9 pounds dried codfish

* 2 pounds slaked lime

* 1 1/3 pounds washing soda

* water

Saw the fish into convenient pieces, if necessary. Place in a wooden receptacle and cover with cold water. Let it lie for a week, changing water every day. Make a solution of the slaked lime, soda, and 15 quarts of water. Place the fish in this solution under weights to keep the fish in position as they swell. Add more water if necessary to keep the pieces covered. In about a week, or when properly softened through, take out the fish, rinse it thoroughly, and place it in cold water for eight days, changing water twice daily during the first few days. Cut in pieces the size you wish for serving and skin and wash them. Tie in a cloth, and place into bowling water to cook for 10 or 15 minutes until tender. Serve with drawn butter. 

If you don’t know what slaked lime is, the corporate site, nordkalk.com helpfully describes it as “…suitable for many uses from neutralisation of industrial waste waters to flue gas cleaning.” Washing soda is actually soda ash, so basically it softens water and cleans. 

So, in essence, this is cod dried to the hardness of wood; soaked in cleaning agents for a week; and then rinsed out and eaten. How is this weird? 

I ate this a few times a year for my childhood, a special holiday treat. I thought it was good, though phrases like “fish jello” were bandied about by haters. Still, it’s worth a shot, if you are bored for some fifteen-day period and have planks of dried codfish and a bunch of cleaning agents on hand.