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.
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.
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
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.