The Lutefisk Wars

Some foul fish is worth fighting for!

lutefisk wars

Photos courtesy of David E. Hall and Christopher Panneckl
While lutefisk is “not just for Norskie,” few others than Norwegian Americans seem to like to eat it.

Olympia, Wash.

John Smistad, “The Quick Flick Critic” and a proud Norwegian American, shares his thoughts about a film about the wacky world of lutefisk …

Synopsis (seriously)

Documentary filmmakers look into the troubles that had recently escalated in Newford, N.D., a small town with a large population of Norwegian descendants. Karl Larsen, a Schwan’s frozen food deliveryman with ambitions for a cooking career, explains that it all started one afternoon when an odd and clearly agitated old man knocked on his door.  

A Norwegian fisherman, the elderly gent had an urgent message to impart. Alas, Karl didn’t understand his frantic Norwegian.  So, naturally, he invited the stranger in for coffee and a bite to eat. However, before the poor codger could utter another word, he plopped face-first into Karl’s three-bean hot dish, dead as Erik the Red. 

Not just for Norskies

Although neither one claims ancestral connections to Norway, filmmakers David E. Hall and Christopher Panneck say they were surrounded by Norwegian people and culture while growing up in Iowa and North Dakota, respectively. As such, they each became intimately familiar with Lutheran church potlucks come Sunday, along with Sons of Norway lutefisk dinners every Christmas.

When the pair embarked upon jointly writing, producing and directing a film with funding from a group of North Dakota investors looking to get a movie made about their home state, Hall and Panneck knew just how to fill the bill. And so was born the silly funny farce The Lutefisk Wars.

Now you don’t necessarily have to be Norwegian, or even of Norsk descent (as I am … proudly!) to enjoy and appreciate this 2011 comedy, now available for streaming.  But it sure helps. Still, no matter your heritage, chances are you’re gonna find something to laugh at, and with, in this satirical send-up of stoic Scandinavian sensibility centered on an ancient secret lutefisk recipe and the two Norwegian mafia families battling like hell to secure it for their own. 

That’s right. I said Norwegian mafia families. 

Told ya you’re bound to find something to solidly strike your funny bone amid this wink, wink, nudge, nudge nuttiness. 

Incidentally, if you’re not aware of the wonders of lutefisk, I suggest you look it up. 

I do not, however, suggest you eat it. Uff da!

To learn more about The Lutefisk Wars and to purchase or rent it for viewing, visit

This article originally appeared in the April 23, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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John Smistad

John Smistad is a published author of short stories, poems, essays, and movie reviews. He lives and loves with his family and cat in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. He is the fiercely proud son of a native Norwegian dad. (He loves his mom, too.) You can follow him as on his blog at