News of Norway, issue 6, 1997
It costs $1 to be a member plus an additional fee of $74 for the aquavit. Aquavit is a Scandinavian flavored liquor which is distilled from a fermented potato or grain mash and flavored with caraway seeds or cumin seeds. In Norway, the aquavit is served chilled and unmixed straight out of the freezer in small custom made shot glasses.
This original Minneapolis, Minn., based Torske Klubb has been a place for tradition for years, and just like the menu, the purpose of the club has been and still is to "eat and drink and be merry."
Even though the club’s sole purpose was fellowship, a concern for Norwegian affairs led the club’s members to get involved in serious matters like education. After World War II, members realized that the German occupation had left Norway in an educational, as well as economic crisis. Large numbers of promising students had served in the underground or fled the country, professors and academic leaders had been imprisoned and confined to concentration camps, and the national university itself had been closed down.
Torske Klubben’s members decided that they could contribute to the reconstruction of science, technology and education in Norway by financially supporting students who wished to pursue graduate studies at the University of Minnesota. To support the project, the members voted to raise funds through voluntary contributions. Members and friends pledged thousands of dollars between 1945 and 1946. Since then, the club has received a few endowments, but a large portion of the fund is still pledged by current members.
Once a year, the club’s members, now standing at 165, are asked to contribute to the Fellowship Fund. Each year, the Fellowship Award is given to about 4-5 students, and in addition to covering tuition gives the students around $5,000 for living costs.
The students are selected by the scholarship committee headed by Tor Dahl. Students fill out applications designed by U of M and write a few essays. The applications are reviewed by the committee who then decides the grant recipients. Dahl said that his fellow committee members take the selection process very seriously. He also added that the Fellowship Program, in addition to helping financially, is there as a support mechanism for the students, which is something he missed as a young Norwegian student in the United States. Dahl also challenges other Torske Klubber to host similar programs.
According to the 5th Boss of Torskeklubben Donald Omodt, (the president is called "Boss"), the students who have come over are usually exceptional students with G.P.As ranging from 3.7 and up.
All students are invited to the luncheons where they get to meet and befriend their benefactors.
In more recent years, Torske Klubben has also initiated an American Fellows program which helps American students travel to Norway to conduct research or attend graduate studies.
Due to tradition, the members’ birthdays are recognized. To celebrate the members’ birthdays has been a tradition since the club’s origin when there were only 24 members(20 of whom were from Norway.) If you don’t have your birthday during the season, the "Boss" will assign you another birthday month, said Omodt. The duties of the birthday members is to provide the aquavit, and usually one of them has to serve as toastmaster.
The Torske Klubb season runs from October to May, and the traditional luncheon is the first Saturday of each month. Once every season, the Torske Klubb men will recognize the ladies at Ladies Day and in May there is usually a black tie garden party where members and spouses can put some wear and tear on their dancing shoes.
Except for your duties in your birthday month, other unwritten rules state that no more than three consecutive absences are allowed, you have to tell a good joke when called upon and you should contribute to the scholarship fund, said Omodt.