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Potato Praise!

Nothing but high praise for the lowly potato, especially home grown.

Normally, this is lefse festival season. If not for the pandemic, I would be itching to travel to the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, ND, in two weeks to greet old friends and sell new lefse and lutefisk products. But the Hostfest was cancelled, as was Potato Days in Barnesville, MN, where I have sold my stuff in August for years and have been a judge at the National Lefse Cook-off.

I am sad about losing a year of lefse festivals. But I am glad that this year I planted a few potato plants and yesterday passed a pleasant afternoon hour harvesting five pounds of what seems to me to be rather jovial spuds of not insignificant size, thrilled to be freed from the dark underground and at last basking in the warm sun. These potatoes will make the dough for what undoubtedly will be my best batch of lefse ever!!

The potato yield was small consolation to the loss of going to the lefse festivals, but consolation nevertheless. Plus the digging and excitement of discovering—you never know how many potatoes will be there and how plump or puny they will be—unearthed special memories of Potato Days and Barnesville.

I love it—and kids do as well—that Barnesville, MN, can creatively make so many fun events, like this spud-picking contest, out of the simple potato.

Of course, Potato Days in Barnesville is on the Lefse Trail, which I presented in Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round. Here is what I wrote to lead off the Barnesville chapter:

Pity the poor potato. It’s packed with flavor and nutrition, and yet typically people display pathetically little potato appreciation. They deem it to be lowly and grubby, and they disparage the dirty little tuber, using phrases like “small potatoes” and “couch potato.” The spud doesn’t see the light of day until it’s yanked from the muck, sliced, fried, mashed, riced, rolled, or whipped—and then greedily gobbled up.

Thankfully, there are people in our midst who find the potato to be most appealing. A. A. Milne, who wrote books about the thoughtful and steadfast Winnie-the-Pooh, praised the potato right proper when he wrote, “What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”

Pardon the promotional potato preamble (I lose perspective regarding potatoes), but it helps explain why we are in Barnesville. Lefse lovers are pretty decent folks who applaud the pomme de terre, holding it high because it is the fundamental ingredient in the most fantastic food this side of heaven. When it’s lefse time, it’s tater time—and it’s tater time all the time during one potato-packed weekend in this northern Minnesota town (pop. 2,570 in 2013). Barnesville’s annual Potato Days Festival in late August pulls in around 20,000 spud lovers who participate in events that embrace all things potato—including the National Lefse Cook-off. With good food, kooky contests, silly stuff you have to see to believe, and a gripping lefse competition, Barnesville’s food festival is a must stop on the Lefse Trail.

Let’s stay safe and hope that Potato Days and the Norsk Hostfest make a big comeback next year.

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