The new year is underway and we hope and pray the pandemic will end soon. Vaccinations are underway but it will take several months before the majority of the population has been treated. It may be necessary to use masks for the next two years. They will reduce the spreading of other diseases as well.


Skip the resolutions and set realistic goals for yourself and family. Couples can make their list separately and later compare them and discuss more ideas. Vacation plans, books to read, added education, home projects, retirement plans, volunteer work and health and wellness plans can all enhance the quality of life’s purpose.

My niece and her husband moved from Ocala, Florida to Union Lake near Fertile. This was a major loss to us at Thanksgiving time in Florida. Cynthia is an excellent cook and especially a pie-baker. Lemon meringue, cherry, chocolate, pecan, Key lime, pumpkin and banana cream are all choices she shared throughout the years. 

Feeling a little nostalgic, I called them at their lake home and expressed my disappointment of not being with them for Thanksgiving. Lo and behold, three days before Christmas Perkins restaurant delivered a lemon meringue and a cherry pie to our Legacy Harbour Marina at Fort Myers. Kathy and I were delighted and the pies were excellent.

Strange Christmas

This was the first Christmas in 52 years that our family was not together. Gifts arrived by mail, Zoom conversations took place with each of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, emails, cards, letters and phone calls kept us in contact with family and friends.

A few days before Christmas a large box of Scandinavian taste treats arrived from Rushford, compliments of our daughter, Stephanie, and son-in-law, Chuck. It included lefse, thin anise cookies, lingonberries, hard tack, flatbrod and Nordic sweets. This heightened my desire for lutefisk. Thus, the search began. A small Scandinavian shop in Fort Myers saved the day, and we came home with two packages of lutefisk, approximately four pounds. Full of excitement I called friends to plan the day of the feast.

Avoiding robo-calls

Our children have advised us to answer the unidentified phone calls with “good morning” or “good afternoon” instead of the usual, “hello.” It trips up their automated answering service and causes delay of their message. When the pause occurs just hang up. So far it hasn’t prevented them from calling back.

Worthy advice

Good friends Stan and Karen Smith sent some worthy advice in their Christmas greeting card this year. “Smile for today”: 

1. 2019: stay away from negative people. 2020: stay away from positive people. 

2. Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands? 

3. I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator. 

4. Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank teller wearing a mask and asking for money. 

5. The spread of COVID-19 is based on two things: a. how dense the population is, and b. how dense the population is.


Scandinavians are losing their ties to lutefisk and yielding to Nigerian Americans and other West Africans who prefer dried fish. Americans are eating more herring.

First described by Swedish scholar and archbishop Olaus Magnus in 1555, people have eaten lutefisk in Norway, Sweden and parts of Finland for centuries. Lutefisk, when translated from its original Norwegian, is self-explanatory: Lut means lye, and Fisk is fish. To make it, dried cod is soaked in caustic lye solution for days, transforming it into quivering fillets.

Nobody quite knows who invented it; tales range from someone accidentally dropping a fish into a bowl of lye to “The Swedes trying to poison the Norwegians,” jokes Travis Dahl, a meat salesman at Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace in Minneapolis. Once rinsed, the mild-flavored meat is either baked or boiled, then smothered with everything from melted butter to sautéed onion and bacon bits. The smell can linger long after people clean their plates-an odor that’s the butt of many a Minnesotan grandpa jokes.

On northern Norway’s Lofoten Islands, fisheries have long dried fresh cod on wooden racks. Stock fish was nutritious and hardy. It would remain viable for years and when soaked in water would be reconstituted basically to its original state when caught,” explains Terje Leiren, professor emeritus of Scandinavian studies at the University of Washington. This made it ideal for long sea voyages, thus indelibly tying it to the trans-Atlantic slave trade-and to Norway, which was once part of a dual monarchy with Denmark. During voyages to the Danish West Indies, today’s United States Virgin Islands, stockfish-laden ships would stop in Nigeria.

Cultures and traditions change through marriage, generations and food availability. Minnesota and Wisconsin won’t give up easily.

Gene Johnson is Publisher Emeritus of Press Publications, White Bear Lake, and owner of the Kanabec County Times.


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