Gag Reflex

Dear Noel, every year my dear, widowed, Norwegian cousin insists on bringing her “famous” Lutefisk for us all to share on Christmas Day, but it’s so disgusting it puts everyone off their lunch. How can I discourage her once and for all?

Signed, Grossed Out

Dear G.O.

Seriously, with the amount of gross food extravagance on offer at Christmas, can you not stomach a little Lutefisk to keep your cousin happy?

Just kidding friend – I looked this up and no wonder you struggle to keep this sucker down.

Lutefisk = “Dried fish treated with lye* until it turns to jelly.” Dried. Fish. Lye. Jelly. Yum. Yum.

Unfortunately, your gag reflex is another person’s grand Christmas food tradition. And for some reason, a lot of these traditions involve seafood.

There’s the southern Italian Christmas Eve tradition of ‘festa di sette pesci’, or ‘feast of seven fish’. Great if you can afford this but we never could, so my Father (who was Scottish but once knew someone who went to Italy) used his own interpretation of this tradition as the “fist of five fingers” which meant a smack in the mouth if we didn’t eat our brussel sprouts and animal fat at Christmas dinner.

If you’re in Argentina at Christmas, apparently you’ll delight in eating “Vitel Toné” (translated into English as “Vital to puke”), a traditional dish made of veal coated with a tuna-flavoured mayonnaise sauce. Since when is something other than actual tuna, tuna flavoured?


In Australia it’s become common to eat prawns (along with other forms of cooked seafood served cold) on Christmas Day. Nothing strange about that, though this habit was started as a defence against a much older Australian tradition to see who could sweat (and subsequently drink) the most on Christmas Day by serving the hottest food possible at the most humid time of year.

But there are other Christmas traditions with food that don’t involve seafood. Like the Slovakian one, where the oldest man in the house takes a spoonful of a special pudding and throws it at the ceiling, apparently for good luck.

We used to follow a similar tradition at Christmas, where my Grandfather would get so  drunk he’d end up hurling pretty much all of his lunch at the ceiling. This didn’t deliver luck but did bring Grandad several complaints from our neighbours and a police Taser one year when he couldn’t be restrained.

So G.O., in the spirit of Festive Treason, stop complaining about how gross your Christmas fare is. Don’t let your Christmas be spoiled by another unusual dish. Don’t respond by telling your well-meaning relatives to eat shit. Serve it up to them instead.

It’s your duty to out gross the gross. Start by adding veal, tuna juice and mayonnaise to your shopping list. And remember, use the leftover Lutefisk (containing the secret ingredient of Lye) to unblock your drains clogged up with the excesses of your next Christmas Day.

Yours, Noel

* Lye is a form of sodium hydroxide that can be used for many household uses such as drain and oven cleaning. Great.

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