Gary’s note: Everyone has a lefse story, and this is Leslie Olsen’s. This blog is the first of a thorough, three-part look at Leslie’s family, their rolling pins, their flatbrød, and their krina lefse. You are probably familiar with the simple-yet-delicious flatbrød, but you may not know about krina lefse, which is as yummy of a treat as you could desire. The lefse rolling pin Leslie describes here is unique in that it tapers at the ends. It was carried from Norway by his grandmother.
My paternal grandparents came from the Lurøy community, west of Mo I Rana, Norway, to Anacortes, Washington, between 1905 and 1910. They were married in the Anacortes Lutheran Church on December 27, 1910.
My grandmother brought a lefse rolling pin with her, made by her father who had the only treadle lathe in the area. The rolling pin measures 26-1/2 inches tip of handle to tip of handle. The rolling area is 17 inches, and it is 2-3/4 inches in diameter in the middle, tapering to 2-1/2 inches in diameter at the ends. The handles are integral fixed and are as smooth as silk, after many loving hours rolling flatbrød and lefse. It intriguing to me how the longitudinal grooves were cut.
My mother married into the Olsen family on New Year’s Eve of 1940 at the Anacortes Lutheran Church Parsonage. In the early 1950s, my mother (of Scotch-Irish and German descent) diligently measured her mother-in-law’s “dump-and-pour”recipe to create a measured recipe that produced yummy lefse and flatbrød every time. This recipe was passed on to her sons. Grandma had seven children. Of those children and their spouses, only my mother learned the traditional baking of the Norwegian Christmas goodies: krina lefse, potatokake, flatbrød, fattigmann, krumkake, and gomme. It wasn’t until I spoke with members of the Daughters of Norway in Olympia, Washington, in the 1980s that I was told krina lefse is named for the tool that makes the pattern in the topping.
My grandmother’s and parent’s homes were a stone’s throw apart. Grandma always kept the rolling pin in her dresser drawer, wrapped in a pillowcase. At Christmas in 1976, Grandma told Mom to keep the rolling pin at her house. Mom said, “No, Momma. You take it back to your house.” That was the last time the rolling pin was ever seen or used by Mom. Grandma moved into a nursing home at Easter 1977. She was 84 years old the last time she rolled flatbrød and krina lefse with that rolling pin.
The rolling pin we have now (pictured) is a duplicate of Grandma’s rolling pin, also make by her father. I found it in my grandmother’s childhood home (Aas hjem) in Norway while visiting there with my parents in 1998. My cousin, Jergen, who was living in the house, said, “Yes, you take it home. No one here will use it. I buy my lefse.”
So, like Grandma nearly 90 years earlier, I wrapped it, placed it in my suitcase, and brought it to America. Before we left Norway, I made flatbrød for my cousins in the northern part of the country and also south of Oslo. As far I know, they have been making flatbrød at Christmas ever since.
Upon inspection of the rolling pin, I found it be to be inhabited by powderpost beetles. When I got home, the rolling pin spent 24 hours in the oven at 200 degrees, hopefully killing any living critters. Have we eaten some dead beetle bodies? Well, that would be a small price to pay to have such a priceless heirloom.
Next blog: How to make krina lefse and flatbrød.