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Fresh cod

As previously mentioned, most Norwegians will eat one of about five different dishes for Christmas dinner. I wrote about lutefisk a few days ago, and on Sunday I'll write about pinnekjøtt, but today, the topic is cod. Specifically, fresh cod, or "fersk torsk" as it is known in Norwegian.

I'm not entirely certain about this, but I have heard that there are mostly two types of people who eat fresh cod as Christmas dinner. Firstly, there are the people who live along the coast and who spend a lot of time fishing in small open boats, and then there are people who live in cities which are close to the sea, but where it's not as common to go fishing. I should probably also point out that far from everyone who lives in these places eat fresh cod. According to the Norwegian wikipedia page on Christmas food, only about 1% of the population will have cod for Christmas.

I must confess, I always found this a bit surprising. When I was a kid, I "didn't like fish", and especially cod I thought of as a quite boring, everyday type of food, and I thought it was madness to have it as a Christmas dinner. As I've grown older, I've started to like cod quite a lot, but I still feel it's a bit unspectacular, and in particular people who spend a lot of time fishing probably have cod loads of times during a year, so why not make something special for Christmas?

I've discussed this with a colleague of mine, who is from the southern coast of Norway, and according to him, the special thing about fresh cod is it's freshness. Apparently, some people will go fishing the day before Christmas, the slightly more enthusiastic ones will go fishing during the night, and some people even go fishing earlier in the day on Christmas eve, to have the freshest possible cod for the Christmas dinner. The more inventive people go fishing several times in the week leading up to Christmas, and then keep whatever they catch penned in by nets, so they can select and kill a prime specimen at their leisure just before dinner.

But how about the people in the cities? How do they satisfy the stringent demands for freshness that apply to cod as a Christmas dinner? Again, I'm not absolutely sure about this, but I've heard it can be a quite lucurative bussiness for people with boats to go fishing during the day before Christmas, then load up the car and drive to Oslo during the night. They can then fetch excellent prices selling the fresh fish in the morning of Christmas eve, and then drive home in time for dinner.

I had a look around in various fora, and it seems the most common sides to have with fresh cod are fairly standard things like potatoes, carrots, butter, maybe some kind of sauce or some fried bacon. Again, to me this sounds like fish and potatoes, the archetypical Norwegian meal, eaten by generations of Norwegians who had little else, and while it can be very good, it's not really Christmas food, at least not the Christmas meal. Still, I suppose much the same could be said about my prefered Christmas dinner, "pinnekjøtt", which I by the way am having for dinner on Sunday, with some colleagues. A report will follow.

-Tor Nordam


that people far from the sea were the ones that ate codfish for Christmas, precisely because it would not be an everyday food where they lived. At any rate, it can never compare to pinnekjøtt.