Sometimes in our youth (think high school and college age) we do things just so we can eventually say we’ve done them. Kind of like building your resume to eventually impress your grandkids. Thus, I decided to make lefse on a canoe trip.
You don’t have to have high-tech equipment to make lefse, and at the time and on that trip I certainly adhered to that principle. Nevertheless, things were kind of primitive. I was on a float down the upper Mississippi River in north central Minnesota. Normal canoe trips involved portages and keeping weight to a minimum, but there I really didn’t have to carry gear or the canoe around anything. Nor was I backpacking, so I went a bit heavier on provisions. While I was heavier on provision, I still didn’t have a proper rolling board, pastry cloth, rolling pin, griddle, or flipping stick. Time to improvise.
Make Do to Make Lefse
Finding the flat rolling surface was easy. I just turned over the canoe and used the flat part of the hull bottom. Rolling pin? Easy — a beer bottle worked, although a wine bottle would have been better. I had a cheap aluminum frying pan and pancake turner, which kind of worked. Still being somewhat primitive, I used a cooking fire instead of a heat-controlled specialty griddle.
Ingredients were easily solved with instant mashed potatoes and pancake flour. Instant mashed potatoes weren’t as good in the middle 60s as they are now, but they worked. And of course, this was an experiment. I don’t recall exactly what I used for shortening in the dough, but it was probably bacon grease. Anyway, I somehow got the dough rolled and into the pan and kind of cooked.
Texture and cosmetics were primitive, but then a judging panel was not present so I ignored those subtleties. As I recall, the lefse was surprisingly tasty — must have been the bacon grease — but then I wasn’t making it for refined tastes. It might also have involved the hunger generated by paddling all day.
My techniques have improved in the last half century or so, but making lefse on a canoe trip is still a fond memory. If I were to make lefse while out camping these days, it would be a bit easier to do it in my motor home. But the biggest challenge today would be to get the canoe into the motor home to roll out the dough!