Janesville76°

Lutefisk ludicrousness

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Frank Schultz
November 13, 2012

I must tell you a true, laugh-out-loud story that landed in my emails.

A source who asked to be described as “deranged fellow journalist” sent me an email after reading my story about lutefisk in Sunday’s paper. You can read the article here.

While the gentleman did not want to be identified, I did verify that he is a knowledgeable source. Here’s what he wrote:

“Regarding your fine lutefisk story on Sunday, did you know that, in Wisconsin, lutefisk, by law, is NOT a toxic substance? It happened in the State Assembly in about 1982.

“The Assembly was debating a workplace safety bill requiring the posting of warning signs in places where toxic substances were in use. It was a classic labor vs. management duel. The unions saw the bill as a common-sense safety precaution; manufacturers viewed it as one more unnecessary government regulation.

“The preliminary votes were close but the unions were winning. Then, a big problem arose for the unions. One of the Assembly's Norwegians warned that this bill would require a warning notice at every lutefisk dinner in Wisconsin, because a toxic substance, lye, is used in its preparation.

“The Assembly's Norwegian caucus numbered, perhaps, 20 or 30 votes -- enough to doom the bill. Thinking fast, the bill’s sponsors brought in a one-word amendment. The first part of the bill included a definitions clause, listing what was, and what was not, a toxic substance. The sponsors added "lutefisk" to the list of non-toxic agents. That kept the Norwegian caucus in line, and the bill was enacted.

“Don't believe me? See Wisconsin Statutes, 101.58(2)(j)2.f.”

Sure enough, the statute exists. Here it is.

As a footnote, let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly, humorous folks at the Sons of Norway, Nordland Lodge, in Janesville.

Yes, I did try the lutefisk. And even though I have some Norwegian in me, I don’t think I’ll be trying it again. Norwegian pastries, however, are an entirely different matter.



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