There’s nothing fishy about honoring this Norwegian tradition of cod and aquavit
Gary G. Erickson
The Minneapolis Men’s Torske klubben gathered on Saturday morning, April 7, at the Interlachen Country Club to conduct its 676th consecutive monthly meeting since its founding in 1933. Formed in the tradition of Old World Norwegian men’s social organizations, it is dedicated to the club principle of respect for its heritage and the fun of brotherly fellowship with others of Norwegian descent.
Members arrived and were registered together with their guests. In all, 107 attendees were registered for this luncheon. A small group of singers spontaneously gathered around a grand piano and led a boisterous version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Most attendees were looking solemnly through the gigantic windows at the April snow-covered golf course.
This meeting began as do all others with the convening of the luncheon by “the Boss,” Robert Grisvold. His introduction of this day’s master of ceremonies, five-year member Paul Paulson, led to short announcements and the emcee’s ritualistic shout to the kitchen staff to “Bring on the torsk!”
Conversations in English and Norwegian began. Each table’s eight participants hoisted a small glass of authentic, Norwegian, gut-burning, eye-watering aquavit, and the raised-glass toast of “Skål!” was called out. The authenticity of the Norwegian aquavit was created by its first being stored in oak casks. These are placed on Norwegian ships heading south, crossing the equator into the southern hemisphere. Upon return to Norway, the aquavit crosses the equator a second time, heading north to Norway. There, it is bottled and marketed around the world after crossing the equator two times.The opportunity to eat with new and changing table guests each month, if one wishes, brings a never-ending stream of stories of families, farms, different fylker (county areas), backgrounds in Norway, and narratives of immigrant perseverance. Tremendous individual and family accomplishments and lesser stuff make for wonderful historical stories, all of which beg to be memorialized and reduced to writing.
At this luncheon “the Boss” recognized a member for his 50 years’ membership in Torske klubben. He presented an etched glass plate to Pastor David Preus, retired Bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The Boss also recognized Pastor Preus’s earlier receipt in 1976 of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, with presentation made by the King of Norway as “a record of distinguished services to the country and mankind—David W. Preus, Commander.”
Pastor Preus revealed a well-honed sense of humor by first roasting the Boss and then speaking of his own ties to Decorah, Iowa (home of Luther College and competitor for all things Lutheran with St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minn.). “Decorah was the home of the Decorah Posten. Now, for some of you illiterates here, for more than 50 years the Decorah Posten was the way by which Norwegian immigrants got their news about home. As a fact, there were two brothers in Norway during the height of emigration to America who considered doing so themselves. One brother emigrated. He sent letters back home, and with each letter he enclosed a copy of the Decorah Posten. The wife of the second brother eventually prevailed upon her husband for them to emigrate, too. Finally, they sailed into New York harbor and were stunned by the buildings making up the New York skyline. Everything was larger than anything they had ever encountered. As they stood at the rail, the wife leaned into her husband and said, “Yust think, Ole! If New York is like this, what must it be like in Decorah?”
To the raucous laughter of this closing, Torske klubben members took to the microphone and introduced their guests. The Norwegian national anthem was sung and the 676th meeting was adjourned.
This article originally appeared in the May 18, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.