Each year, Christ Lutheran Church hosts a Norwegian lutefisk and meatball dinner that draws out hundreds of people. This year, over 900 people bought tickets for the dinner. They come from all over, some traveling from as far as Iowa or the Twin Cities area to eat the gelatinous white fish. But the diners who come the farthest are husband and wife Annalisa Staupe Gaard and Karl Gaard from the west coast of Norway. This year is the couple’s second time attending the dinner.
The Gaards are related to Preston native Arlene Staupe through Annalisa’s father’s side of the family. They make regular trips to the U.S. to visit family and sightsee, often bringing different members of their family from Norway with them. One of their three daughters lives in Denver so they spend a lot of time there as well as in Minnesota. They estimate that they’ve made around 60 trips to the U.S. so far, sometimes visiting as often as four times in one year.
Annalisa and Karl first came to the lutefisk and meatball dinner in 2015 with Arlene and loved it so much that they just had to come back. This year, they brought Annalisa’s mother Karen Staupe, their daughter Ann Veronika Gravdal, and her son Joachim Gravdal. This was baby Joachim’s first trip to the United States.
“The lutefisk tastes better here,” Annalisa said, laughing. In Norway, they have lutefisk for Christmas each year, but she’s found that the lutefisk in Minnesota is different in some way and she actually likes it better.
The Norwegian traditions celebrated in Minnesota have been passed down through the generations, but haven’t changed much and are still fairly similar to the original traditions from Norway. Generally lutefisk, translated to mean lye fish, is served with mashed potatoes, green beans, and other sides in Norway. The lutefisk dinner at the Christ Lutheran Church is served with meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, cranberry sauce, and lefse with rommegrot, sweet soup, and Christmas cookies for dessert. While in Minnesota, lefse is usually only served during the holidays, in Norway, it’s eaten year round.
The Gaards hope to be able to attend future lutefisk dinners at Christ Lutheran with Arlene and some of their other American relatives. They like staying in touch with them all and appreciate the importance of it for future generations. They plan to continue to make frequent trips to the United States, as they enjoy traveling around the U.S. “The people here are very polite and friendly,” Annalisa pointed out, adding that until you get to know them, Norwegians are generally more reserved.
Arlene Staupe also enjoys it when her Norwegian relatives come to visit. “It’s a lot of work to coordinate the family get-togethers,” she said. However, she feels that it’s worth every bit of extra work. Relatives come from as far as Superior to meet up when the family from Norway is visiting. She looks forward to future visits with her Norwegian relatives.