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In Cod We Trust

Living the Norwegian Dream

2011
Author:

Eric Dregni

In Cod We Trust

A vivid portrayal of modern Norway through the eyes of a fourth-generation Norwegian American from Minnesota

In this cross-cultural memoir, Eric Dregni tells the hair-raising, hilarious, and sometimes poignant stories of his family’s yearlong Norwegian experiment. In Cod We Trust is one Minnesota family’s spirited excursion into Scandinavian life, where the land of the midnight sun is far stranger than they previously thought, and their encounters show that there is much we can learn from its unique and surprising culture.

Eric Dregni's spirited travel memoir to Norway joins that classic American genre—the quest tale in search of family and ethnic roots. It's a special pleasure to see the Scandinavian immigration story teased out here with wit and acuity, the immigrant going the other way. In Cod We Trust is the story of a man not only looking for his family past but welcoming the next generation.

Patricia Hampl

Eric Dregni’s great-grandfather Ellef fled Norway in 1893 when it was the poorest country in Europe. More than one hundred years later, his great-grandson traveled back to find that—mostly due to oil and natural gas discoveries—it is now the richest. The circumstances of his return were serendipitous, as the notice that Dregni won a Fulbright Fellowship to go there arrived the same week as the knowledge that his wife Katy was pregnant. Braving a birth abroad and benefiting from a remarkably generous health care system, the Dregnis’ family came full circle when their son Eilif was born in Norway.

In this cross-cultural memoir, Dregni tells the hair-raising, hilarious, and sometimes poignant stories of his family’s yearlong Norwegian experiment. Among the exploits he details are staying warm in a remote grass-roofed hytte (hut), surviving a dinner of rakfisk (fermented fish) thanks to 80-proof aquavit, and identifying his great-grandfather’s house in the Lusterfjord only to find out it had been crushed by a boulder and then swept away by a river. To subsist on a student stipend, he rides the meat bus to Sweden for cheap salami with a busload of knitting pensioners. A week later, he and his wife travel to the Lofoten Islands and gnaw on klippefisk (dried cod) while cats follow them through the streets.

Dregni’s Scandinavian roots do little to prepare him and his family for the year in Trondheim eating herring cakes, obeying the conformist Janteloven (Jante’s law), and enduring the mørketid (dark time). In Cod We Trust is one Minnesota family’s spirited excursion into Scandinavian life. The land of the midnight sun is far stranger than they previously thought, and their encounters show that there is much we can learn from its unique and surprising culture.

In Cod We Trust

Eric Dregni lives in Minneapolis, is dean of the Italian Concordia Language Village, and is assistant professor of English and journalism at Concordia University. He is the author of sixteen books, including four other titles from the University of Minnesota Press: Vikings in the Attic, Never Trust a Thin Cook and Other Lessons from Italy’s Culinary Capital, Midwest Marvels, and Minnesota Marvels.

In Cod We Trust

Eric Dregni's spirited travel memoir to Norway joins that classic American genre—the quest tale in search of family and ethnic roots. It's a special pleasure to see the Scandinavian immigration story teased out here with wit and acuity, the immigrant going the other way. In Cod We Trust is the story of a man not only looking for his family past but welcoming the next generation.

Patricia Hampl

A hilariously fun and moving read for anyone who has dreamed of returning to the Norwegian homeland.

Walter Mondale

Eric Dregni's deceptively delightful In Cod We Trust combines understated humor and serious scholarship. Readers will finish this book smiling, realizing they've been taught much about Norway's past and present—including its model health care system—while being entertained by a colicky baby testing his parents' patience. Part travelogue, part examination of how the immigrant experience affects generations on both sides of the Atlantic, Dregni's self-effacing Scandinavian style is a welcome treat.

Arvonne Fraser

Dregni’s writing is light-hearted and fast-paced. Rather than looking beyond stereotypes, he highlights them for comic effect, often with great success. If you’re looking for a witty account of the cultural differences between Norway and the United States, look no further.

www.norway.org

Charming.

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Dregni's charming read will resonate with anyone who has dreamed of tracing their ancestry.

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Dregni does encounter some unexpected obstacles in his ultimate quest in search of his family's homeland, and the answers he hoped to discover are not exactly what he expected. But the journey remains a rewarding one for the reader, who is treated to a quirky, yet clear-eyed glimpse at the immigrant experience—in reverse.

Minneapolis Observer Quarterly

Each chapter is a self-contained story, one shining gem after another on the thread of life. From Porridge Night with their friends, to the ride on the Meat Bus, to the baptism of their son Eilif, Dregni shares their Norwegian experience with understated humor that will leave the reader smiling.

Woodbury Review News

Dregni’s writing is understated yet vivid and very funny. Solidly researched, rich in information about modern day life in a Norwegian village, and highly entertaining, In Cod We Trust well represents the genre of creative nonfiction.

The Corresponder

Absolutely delightful. A ‘don’t miss’ read for anyone with even a little bit of interest in Norway today.

Avisen

Like those lutefisk TV dinners at the reading, the story seems an odd but triumphant, ironically serendipitous saga.

Port Orchard Independent

The experience of living a year in Norway is told with refreshing wit, comedy and humility.

White Bear Press

Dregni’s humor and enthusiasm bring a creative view of the Norwegian world to the reader. This is a must read for those planning a trip to Norway.

Minnesota History

Eric’s book is a humorous description of a fascinating culture.

Mille Lacs Messenger

In Cod We Trust is a fascinating journey that would interest anyone seeking to understand his or her ancestral land because it reveals what so many Americans seek — their roots — and what few have the opportunity to experience — returning in living in the motherland.

Marquette Monthly

In Cod We Trust

Contents

A Cambridge Education
From Colony to Homeland
A Beautiful Day in Hell
“Screw Yourself” at IKEA
Janteloven
The Chest ...26
Munch Is Dårlig
Aliens
Living the Norwegian Dream
Porridge Night
Norsk Course
A to Å
Cabin Culture
A True Norwegian
Paul Bunyan’s Blacksmith?
“Take Everything for Good Fish”
A Free Upbringing
Columbus Was Norwegian
On the Meat Bus
Bargain Babies
Earth Mothers at the Sick House
The Name of the Devil
Mørketid: The Dark Time
Tran!
Rakfisk: Riskier Than Lutefisk
Juletid
Fish in Lye
Born Wearing Skis
“The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage”
Snowbound in Bodø
The Knitting Hall of Fame
Døping the Baby
In Cod We Trust
Syttende Mai: Constitution Day
You Can’t Eat Beauty
Acknowledgments
Snakker Du Norsk?