Tag Archives: Cooksville Wisconsin

Making Lefse

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For those of you who do not know what Lefse (lef-suh) is, let me educate you…it’s basically a Norwegian tortilla, but that’s really blasphemy.  I’m not Norwegian by blood, but by love, so when I visit my family in Wisconsin, I get the full-on Norwegian heritage experience.  I love that about my life.

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There are several variations of a Lefse recipe.  Me:  What’s in this?  Just potatoes and flour?  The women:  Yes.  Later…

One of the women:  I like the Lefse made with cream.  Me:  It has cream?  Along with potato and flour?  Them:  Yes.    Still later…

One of the women:  It tastes better when we make it with butter, too.  Me:  Butter?  And cream, potatoes, and flour?  Them:  Yes.  And then I found out…all of the recipes consist of potato (real mashed, powdered, or flakes), flour, a shortening of some sort (lard, butter, Crisco-type), a liquid (cream, milk, or water), and salt.  A smidge of sugar is optional.  I guess I just needed to read a recipe.

The potatoes are made the day before.   They sit in the refrigerator to cool for at least 24 hours.  The dough is mixed by hand, adding flour to make it the correct consistency, and it is rolled really, really, really thinly on a round cloth, covered Bethany board.  A special thinly-ridged rolling pin is used, and that is covered with a sock thingie.  Then long flat sticks, sometimes decorated on one end, are used to lift the circle of Lefse, which is brought to the hot, Heritage Griddle, carefully laid across, and then cooked until it bubbles on one side, is flipped, and cooked briefly on the other.  The flat is lifted off with the Lefse turner, and laid on a cloth.  Many circles of Lefse are piled up, and later, when properly cooled, the Lefse are folded in fourths, and packed in baggies.

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Lefse is a tradition.  Like Krumkake, around here, Lefse is a taste of the past.  People eat it with butter and sugar, or jam, or just plain.  Saturday, I went to the church with my sister to make Lefse.  There were eight of us…one mixer, four rollers, and three turners.  I, as a rookie, was assigned to be a turner

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People will come to special church sales just to buy the Lefse.  And women in churches all over the northern midwest are gathering to make the Lefse to sell.  Some have a personal business, selling Lefse for at least $4-$6 a folded over piece.  It is a big money-maker for the churches, and a bargain for the buyers who get a baggie of 9 pieces for $15.  All aspects of the experience are bonding events for the Lefse-making women and the Lefse-buying folks.

America is a melting pot.  We are people from all the lands on earth.  We embrace our past, share our traditions, and look to a better future for all our humans.  It’s a better world with Lefse making women, or any other food-making tradition that’s practiced.  My take-away lesson?  It’s all about teamwork.  If only we could have an overflow of this practice in the real life world-at-large.

 

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Hark, I Get to Sing…

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I have always had the deepest desire to sing like, oh, I don’t know…Whitney Houston?  Adele, maybe?  Hey, I’ll take Meghan Trainer or Rebel Wilson.  But, alas, I don’t have the pipes, much less the pitch.  Still, my anthem in the 70’s was that song by the Carpenters which promoted singing, “even if you’re not good enough for anyone else to hear.”  I still live by that philosophy.

Last night was Choir Practice at Cooksville Lutheran Church here in rural, south central Wisconsin.  I have been visiting here for five years now, twice a year.  When here, I have been invited to sing and ring chimes.  I have eagerly accepted, and these are very joyful times for me.

When I showed up at practice, after the initial big hug from the choir director, I was given a chair, a chime, a choir robe, a partner, music.  And so the rehearsal for the Christmas Eve service began.

Last summer, I was officially declared an alto.  I know what that means, but I have very limited experience in practicing “alto-ism.” Not to worry.  With my partner on one side, my sister on the other, my niece across the aisle, and Mom next to my niece, I joined the choir, and sang like a bird. Well, in my mind.  At least I didn’t embarrass myself.

So I was telling my sister this…how much it means to me to be so lovingly included by everyone in such a sacred service.  Inclusion is a big deal for me, and I have searched my whole life for that feeling.  Here it is, and I have it, two dreams…to be and feel included and to sing.

In sisterly fashion, and without blinking, she responded, “You can breathe.  We take anyone who breathes.”  Hey, I’m not proud.  Breathing is in my skill set.  We laughed uproariously, and I was reminded again why I love being here so much.  Belonging is everything.

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I heard the bells…

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On a pre-Christmas day, in a small village in southern Wisconsin. This is the same village that was the scene of the hostile hostas war a few years back.

The Cooksville Store, established in 1846, did an unusually brisk business between 4 and 5 PM on the day of the winter solstice. This small specialty store hosted the Chimes Choir of the Cooksville Lutheran Church. I was there because one of my sisters, a sister-in-law, and a niece are chime ringers.

I wandered the two aisles, walking over wavy floors, perusing the shelves stocked with soup mixes, jellies, canned pickles, hot drink mixes, spices, baking chocolates, extracts of many flavors, cookie sprinkles of many colors, and the like. I sat on a swivel stool at the ice cream counter, and studied the memorabilia on the walls. I thought about how this store looked nearly 35 years ago when one of my brothers and I slipped away from our sister’s wedding rehearsal to buy a tub of pickled herring to bring back to the church and share sitting in a back pew. I remembered the in-between years when the store was closed due to the retirement of Cigar Eddie, the longtime storekeeper and distant cousin.

It makes me happy the Cooksville Store has re-opened, and seems to be doing okay, if not quite thriving, yet. It is just in time for the village’s upcoming 175th birthday anniversary.

With the dusting of snow on the ground outside, I heard the bells. The sounded pretty darn good.

It is nice to be back home with my family for Christmas.