I’ve known Mary Lou Peterson for years. I visited her home and, as she made very good lefse, interviewed her for my second lefse book, Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round. We stay in touch. That’s how lefse friends roll.
So a few weeks ago she emailed and mentioned casually that she was entering a lefse contest at the Minnesota State Fair. I had not heard of this contest, but I pleaded with Mary Lou to write up her experience for a blog. I mean, this was big time and very few lefse makers — who often take pride in making lefse that’s second only to Grandma’s — have the courage to enter such a contest and then learn their lefse is not the best. What??
Mary Lou is bold by nature, up for most adventures. So here is Mary Lou’s account of her State Fair Lefse Adventure.
I have this to say about the Covid quarantine: It plays with your brain. You get ideas and talk about them to people — who remember what the idea was and KEEP REMINDING you of them. My idea involved lefse.
I’ve been making lefse a long time, and the family brags about it. I’ve passed the talent of rolling a round lefse to my children and grandchildren. Well, I learned of the Creative Activities competition for ethnic breads at the Minnesota State Fair. The entry could be a bread from any country, so Norway’s breads were only a small piece of this division.
I had not competed in any baking contests since I was in 4-H. Back then I traveled to the Minnesota State Fair after winning at the Roseau County Fair. One year I made a potato casserole in a demonstration in front of judges, and a second year I made a Baked Alaska. I decided to enter this year’s State Fair contest because people enjoy my lefse and I have time since I’ve retired. It was time to test my baking ability by submitting four perfectly delicious rounds and then sit back and wait for congrats to arrive.
A quick lefse lesson: It starts with cooking russet potatoes with the skins on for extra flavor. Peel them easily when the potatoes are cooled a bit. You enlist your husband to do the ricing. He might as well be part of this since he eats it.
I cool the potatoes with the margarine, salt and sugar and mix it well. In the meantime, I pull out the grill, lefse stick, special rolling pin, and the board and cover used for rolling. I also have a towel ready to cover the rounds. Most important, I get butter and sugar for testing my lefse (quality control, you know).
I add flour to the potato mixture and work it well. Then I make a ball with the dough and roll it thin until I can read the writing on the board cover through the rolled out round. Using the lefse stick, I move the round to the hot grill and wait. It’s at this time the ricer husband returns to be “the hot-off-the-grill lefse tester”. It passes the test!
Lesson over, now back to the contest! I finished the rest of my batch, cooled it, and selected the four best. I took off for the fairground on Saturday morning. My entry had to be in between 9:30 am and 1 pm. I made the deadline, but the line was down the sidewalk and around the corner of the Creative Activities building! Oh oh — competition!
I handed the four best rounds of lefse ever made to the entry table and went home to wait. Thursday came and results were in. Excitement abounded as I and my husband returned to the State Fair and hurried to see my lefse entry displayed and then to collect my reward.
Sorry to say my opinion of perfect lefse and the judge’s opinion were not the same. No ribbon…
The winning lefse received third place in the competition. Baklava won and potica got second. Quite a variety to judge! Three plates of lefse were put in the display case for viewing, and mine was one. Oh, well, there is always next year!Mary Lou Peterson