In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian dream
A vivid portrayal of modern Norway through the eyes of a fourth generation Norwegian-American from Minnesota.By Christy Olsen Field Norwegian American Weekly
Eric Dregni’s great-grandfather Ellef fled Norway in 1893 when it was the poorest country in Europe. More than one hundred years later, his great-grandson traveled back to find that—mostly due to oil and natural gas discoveries—it is now the richest. The circumstances of his return were serendipitous, as the notice that Dregni won a Fulbright Fellowship to go to Norway arrived the same week as the knowledge that his wife Katy was pregnant. Braving a birth abroad and benefiting from a remarkably generous healthcare system, the Dregenis’ family came full circle when their son Eilif was born in Norway.
In this cross-cultural memoir, Dregni tells the hair-raising, hilarious, and sometimes poignant stories of his family’s yearlong Norwegian experiment. Dregni writes in a series of vignettes, seamlessly weaving together humor, stories of his childhood, and lessons of universal truths that are no doubt shared by other Norwegian-Americans who travel to the homeland. Among the exploits he details are staying warm in the remote grass-roofed hytte (cabin), dealing with the frustrations of bureaucracy to establish residency, surviving a dinner of rakfisk (fish fermented in its own juice) thanks to 80 proof aquavit, and identifying his great-grandfather’s house in the Lusterfjord, only to find out that it had been crushed by a boulder and then swept away by a river. To subsist on a student stipend, he rides the meat bus to Sweden for cheap salami with a busload of knitting pensioners. A week later, he and his wife travel to the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway and gnaw on klippefisk (dried cod) while cats follow them through the streets.
Dregni’s Scandinavian roots do little to prepare him and his family for the year in Trondheim eating herring cakes, obeying the conformist Janteloven (Jante’s law), and enduring the mørketid (dark time). In Cod We Trust is one Minnesota family’s excursion into Norwegian life. The land of the midnight sun is far stranger than they had previously thought, and their encounters show that there is much we can learn from its unique and surprising culture. With laugh-out-loud humor, In Cod We Trust is a highly recommended read for anyone who dreams of traveling to Norway to rediscover their roots, and for those who have already made the journey.
Author Eric Dregni teaches creative writing at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Italian at Hamline University and at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of several books, including “Minnesota Marvels” (Minnesota UP, 2001) and “Midwest Marvels” (Minnesota UP, 2006).
Meet the author! Eric Dregni will give a presentation to the Vestland Lodge at the Minnetonka Community Center in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Everyone is welcome! Please call (763) 559-0312 for more information.
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This article was originally published in the Norwegian American Weekly on Sept. 1, 2008. To learn more about the Norwegian American Weekly and subscription information, email us at email@example.com or call toll-free (800) 305-0217.