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From the Lefse-Fest Front

The latest lefse from Connie Bastyr’s lefse fest.

If you want an executive summary of our annual lefse fest, here it is:

  • One griddle
  • Two rolling boards
  • Seven people (one non-Scandinavian)
  • 19 potatoes
  • 40 lovely lefse
  • Thanks to our Lefse Leader: Gary Legwold!!!

For those who want to savor the full report, read on.

It doesn’t really take seven adults to make a batch of lefse this lovely. One experienced lefse maker could do it. But what’s the fun in that?

On a Saturday evening each December for nearly a decade now, my mother, her three daughters, and the sons-in-law share a dinner. Then we all roll lefse while watching the Christmas classic Elf. The movie is so familiar that we can focus completely on getting perfect rounds of Potato Heaven — and we never forget to turn the lefse at the right moment. Well, except during the scene where Buddy the Elf is testing the Jack-in-the-Box toys. Cracks us up every time.

But like Papa Elf’s story about Buddy, this lefse-fest tale needs to go back a few years to its beginning.

Limited Edition Lefse

With two Norwegian grandmas, kids in my family grew up appreciating lefse as a “Limited Edition” treat. It was in short supply, and its fans were not. We watched it being made, but the skill didn’t transfer to us that easily. As adults, we resorted to — brace yourself — grocery-store lefse for our fix. I know. It wasn’t the same, but we adapted in order to survive.

In 1998, brother-in-law Dennis obtained a “fool-proof” lefse recipe from a coworker and bought equipment and supplies. We dusted off a couple of lefse-turning sticks, which had served as kitchen-wall décor, and everyone brought lefse stuff to our family Christmas vacation, where we could devote time to lefse making.

With great enthusiasm and 10 pounds of potatoes, we made the most durable-looking stack of pancake-thick potato slabs you ever saw. It qualified as “potato jerky,” as author Gary Legwold once labeled his own first lefse.

So it was back to the drawing board … and the grocery store.

Lefse Class

Our family’s lefse luck changed a decade ago when Gary became my office coworker. His reputation as a lefse legend preceded him, and when I learned about his sideline of teaching the art of mixing dough and rolling dinner-plate-size lefse rounds, I recruited him to coach our family.

Six of us, including Dennis, attended Gary’s evening class. Dennis had recovered from the Potato Fail of ’98 and was ready to tackle the taters again. That year for Christmas, Dennis asked Santa for a real lefse griddle and a ribbed rolling pin.

We learned to make real lefse, and ever since that class Dennis has spearheaded our annual lefse fest. I have to say that each year our lefse is more round and delicate and melt-in-your-mouth perfect than the year before. Our grandmas would be so proud, and I think Gary might even feel a bit like a pleased Papa Elf himself.

Connie Bastyr is a former editor of Handy Magazine and a lefse aficionado from Minnetonka, Minnesota.