Lutefisk, at least the kind you buy in the grocery store, is not such a horror as it is reputed to be, says paulj. “As sold in the grocery, lutefisk is not particularly vile,” says paulj, who calls it bland and gelatinous, flavorless until topped with cream or pepper.

Grocery store lutefisk, though, has probably been deodorized, says carswell. “In any case, the pungent smell is related mainly to the transformation of the dried fish into the final product, not the final product per se.” It’s the weeks-long process of soaking, lye-treating, and resoaking the dried fish that is responsible for lutefisk’s stinky reputation, not necessarily the rancidity of the finished product.

Lutefisk is rarely seen (or smelled, notes carswell) outside of Scandinavia. To find some in those parts of the United States and Canada with large Scandinavian populations, carswell recommends inquiring at consulates, or perhaps at “Lutheran churches with Scandinavian congregations.”

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