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Chew on this: Lutefisk, literature and other Norwegian delicacies
Minnesota author/Fulbright Scholar Eric Dregni comes to Poulsbo to discuss his new book over
a plate of lutefisk.
In any other town, with any other author, the presence of lutefisk TV dinners at a book reading would be borderline ridiculous. But with Minnesota author Eric Dregni coming to downtown Poulsbo today, its absolutely fitting.
Front Street merchant Marina Market will be providing the goods at Liberty Bay Books, starting at 6 p.m. tonight. Dregni comes to town on a whim, for a reading of his new book “In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream.”
Like those lutefisk TV dinners at the reading, the story seems an odd but triumphant, ironically serendipitous saga.
An American-born freelance writer/journalist/teacher with Norwegian roots (Dregni), applies doubtingly for a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway on the vague premise of tracing his great-grandfather Ellef’s roots — only to be surprised a few weeks later by a notice that he’d won during the same week he was surprised by the knowledge that his wife Katy was pregnant.
Given Norway’s generous public health care system, the couple is still able to make the trip. And their first son is born before they return.
It almost writes itself.
But that would say nothing of the grass-roofed huts, fermented fish, 80-proof aquavit or the meat bus. Or Dregni’s great-grandfather Ellef’s house in Lusterfjord. But he will cover all that, with a side of lutefisk and wit.
In addition to “In Cod We Trust,” Dregni is also the author of two books about the oddities and landmarks across Minnesota and Midwest America. He also co-authored of “Weird Minnesota,” a book of strange facts about his home state.
Before that, Dregni extensively researched and wrote five books on the Vespa/motorscooter phenomenon, while putting in time at an Italian weekly.
Currently, he’s an assisant professor of English and journalism at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn.
When he applied for a Fulbright Scholarship in creative writing in 2006, Dregni was doubtful at best. Knowing little more than that he planned to write something about the adventure, the folks at Fulbright took a gamble on what would become a cross-cultural thread between Norway and America when “In Cod We Trust” came out last September.
Walter Mondale, fellow Minnesotan and former vice president from the Carter administration, calls it “a hilariously fun and moving read for anyone who has dreamed of returning to the Norwegian homeland.” Patricia Hampl, a fellow American author, noted the cross-cultural memoir joins “that classic American genre — the quest tale in search of family and ethnic roots.”
While we didn’t get to talk with Dregni about it ahead of the event (he was in Rome at the time), it’s interesting to note that his great-grandfather fled Norway in 1893 when it was one of the poorest countries in Europe. More than a century later, Dregni, the great-grandson, travels back to find it one of the richest.
Perhaps that will be something to chew on with your lutefisk at Liberty Bay.
MINNESOTA AUTHOR Eric Dregni makes a stop in Poulsbo for a pairing of his new book “In Cod We Trust” with specialty lutefisk TV dinners from Marina Market at 6 p.m. Jan. 23 at Liberty Bay Books off Front St. in Poulsbo. Info: www.libertybaybooks.com.