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Thanks Giving: 8 Who Made a Difference

I woke up this morning in tears. I want to say the good kind, but all tears are good. I once heard that your tears are recorded in heaven.

This morning, my tears were in gratitude.

This is a thanks giving, and I am limiting my thanks giving to lefse. See, gratitude is like potato chips. You can’t eat just one chip no more than you can thank just one person who helped you along the way. You start saying thanks and you can’t stop. Like Scrooge on Christmas morn, you end up throwing open a window and shouting to the streets about everything from the marvels of one little snowflake to the miracles of modern plumbing. There is so much to life!

So, I’m focusing my thanks giving on lefse and eight people who are foundational to my lefse life.

Jane Legwold

Jane Legwold

This is where the tears really flow. She is there at my side throughout our days and our nights, and at the markets selling All Things Lefse while I roll lefse rounds. I am grateful that she enjoys talking lefse with customers, and soldiers through the hard work of setting up and tearing down our booth space. But more than that, for being my foundation and life partner. Jane has seen my worst lefse and my best, and the best is yet to be. On December 30th, we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. This is what I wrote on the inside of the ring I gave her 50 years ago: “See you tomorrow, Hon…”

Jennie Legwold

Jennie Legwold

Grandma introduced me to lefse. Sadly, I never saw her make it, but lefse was always on the table when I traveled as a boy from Illinois, where I grew up, to Peterson, Minnesota, where she lived. Decades went by when I did not have lefse, but the fascinating look and feel and taste of lefse stayed with me until my middle age, when lefse called me home. The equation was lefse = Grandma. Everybody loves lefse, and everybody loved Grandma. What I loved most was her ability to accept others and herself, although if I were to have asked her about self-acceptance she would have simply chuckled. She was quiet, but not in a stern, judgmental way, and strong in a soft way that made you put down the pretenses and smile. When she served “a little lunch” that always included lefse, there was a green light to talk openly. She was what Jane Austin described when she wrote, ”Emma felt that she could not now show greater kindness than in listening.” I saw her in my dad, Conrad Legwold. And as I age, I see her in me.

Linda Bengtson

Linda Bengtson

I taught myself to make lefse and quit because the stuff was soooo tough. Terrible! I called it potato jerky. A year after I quit Linda, spouse to my cousin Denny Bengtson, gave me lefse for Christmas. It was wonderful. I asked how she pulled off this miracle of making good lefse. She gave me lots of tips, but I had done them all. Finally, she asked what kind of pastry cloth I used. I said, “What’s a pastry cloth?” That was the turning point. She gave me her recipe, which I have modified only slightly, and with a pastry cloth I began making good lefse. And when I brought my lefse to family gatherings, Linda would heap praise on me — loudly, so all could hear. I used every Norwegian deflection I could think of to get her to cool it, but she was not deterred. After hearing these praises year after year, I finally learned to just sit there and take it. Linda has passed on, but it is my turn to heap praise on her. She was my mentor, and I loved her. I would not be a lefse maker without her. I cannot imagine not being a lefse maker. Thanks, Linda.

Merlin Hoiness

Merlin Hoiness standing by an early lefse roller he invented. His mother-in-law gave it a thumbs-down.

Merlin was Mr. Lefse long before I came on the scene. He was a grocer who, along with wife, Zola, did lefse demos in Minnesota and Wisconsin while starting Norsland Kitchens, a lefse factory in Harmony, Minnesota, in 1981. The factory featured lefse rolling machines invented by Jim Humble. These machines are marvels and are still rolling at Norsland Lefse, the successor to Norsland Kitchens and located in Rushford, Minnesota. Merlin taught me that you must market lefse, get out with lefse lovers and understand their passion for this food. He wrote a small book called 91 Ways to Serve Lefse and was a hoot to interview. He said in my first lefse book, The Last Word on Lefse, that as a grocer he “could never keep people satisfied when it came to lefse. This was before factories were making much lefse. … In my store, I would use the lefse made by ladies in town and on the farms. I was actually bootlegging lefse, you see. The ladies weren’t checked out by the public health inspector. He’d come into the store and ask who made my lefse. Then he’d have to take it off the shelf and throw it in the garbage.”

Bitten Norvoll

Bitten Norvoll making lefse in her basement to confine the mess from flour dust.

In 1950, Bitten came to Minnesota from Norway, where she was born. She made lefse for me from her south Minneapolis home and was the embodiment that lefse is a Norwegian food. As I ate her lefse, her husband Torbjorn explained why lefse was so important to Norwegian-Americans. He said that with early emigrants “whenever they left, it was goodbye forever. So they would cling to anything—old diets, memories—anything that reminded them of the old country.”

Bitten added that for years you couldn’t buy lefse in stores, so to have lefse you had to make it yourself. Going through the motions of making lefse evokes far more memories, she said, than simply plunking down the cash in a store for a lefse package.

John Glesne

John Glesne, my man!

When I first started making lefse, it was a bit intimidating that all real lefse makers seemed to be women. Would I ever fit in? John’s answer, by example, was an emphatic yes. Part of my interview with him at his home in Decorah, Iowa, was this offer: “Hey, wanna beer?” Using a wedge, he also pitched a golf ball into a bucket in his living room after he made lefse. He was an easy-going good guy and keenly interested in not just making lefse but in making good lefse. That’s what I wanted to be, and John showed the way.

Jean Olson

Jean Olson

In my second lefse book, Keep On Rolling!, I interviewed Jean in her home in Deerwood, Minnesota, where she is known as the Queen of Lefse. (I’ve met lots of lefse queens, by the way, and a few lefse kings. And they all were beginners making the same mistakes we all make. So keep on rolling!)

Jean won the National Lefse Cook-off in 2005, an annual event that’s part of the Potato Days Festival in Barnesville, Minnesota. She won the contest rolling with dough that had not been cooled overnight or for hours in a refrigerator, which is customary, but was but a bit above room temperature. “I used to do that [roll cooled dough] but I didn’t like the way the potatoes rolled when cold,” she said. “Several years ago before my mother-in-law, Edith Olson, passed away, we both changed our minds on how cold potatoes needed to be.”

I now roll with room-temperature dough, thanks to Jean. Thanks, Jean, for your example of being willing to change your mind and trying something that can make lefse-making better.

Jean’s story leads into this tip: Do not to be a lefse snob. I have always learned from every lefse maker I’ve met. And I have always believed that there are many ways to make lefse, and not one is the best. As long as you are happy making lefse, go for it using the ways and recipe that are in your family or that you have found to be best for you.

Rev. Charles Colberg

Can switching to King Arthur Flour make much of a difference with lefse?

I don’t have a photo of Charles, so a photo of King Arthur Flour is going to have to do. Because he approached me as I rolled lefse at a market and started talking up this King Arthur Flour. I had never heard of it and was pretty happy with the flour I used, which was the cheapest I could find. He pushed me to give it a try because it would do wonders for my lefse.

I thought it was going to be hard to find, but I found it at Target — at twice the cost of most other flours. “Oh, what the heck,” I said, “there is no price on great lefse.” I bought it and, well, bottom line is I will never go back. The lefse dough is velvety-smooth, and the 11.7% protein helps keep the edges on my rounds together, so that I can actually roll a round round. And being able to roll a round round is a huge draw at markets and is hugely satisfying to the perfectionist perched on my shoulder. So, thanks, Charles, for that tip!

So these are my Great Eight who have helped me make better lefse. Thanks to you!

Here’s an idea: On this Thanksgiving, each of us thank those lefse makers who have helped us along the way.

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6 Reasons to Make Really Good Lefse

Jennifer Johnson, left, and Helen Priestly were my first lefse students of 2022. They head into the holiday season confident they can make really good lefse.

Many — many — students in my lefse classes come to class haunted by bad lefse-making experiences. They tell scary tales of being smacked on the hand when they speared a round with a turning stick. They confess to feeling the long, spooky shadow of a mother or grandmother who made perfect lefse and being intimidated when they rolled crappy rounds. Or they tried and quit in shame, putting on a brave face that it wasn’t meant to be … but always wishing they, too, could make really good lefse.

So I teach them, and I enjoy sending them off with loads of confidence, not to mention loads of their own fresh lefse.

Whatever bad past you’ve had with lefse, perhaps it’s time to look forward to your good lefse future. Not someone else’s good lefse, but yours. Here are six really good reasons to make really good lefse:

  1. You are cool to your grandkids. You may be old to them, but you’re not some fuddy-duddy who is a wall flower at family events. You, the lefse maker, are the star!
  2. You are in demand at holidays — big time! Not only does your phone ring as neighbors want lefse, but when food assignments are handed out for holiday dinners, you are not an afterthought, relegated to bringing boring buns year after year. Uh-uh. You are at the top of the list cuz you make really good lefse.
  3. Lefse shortens long winters. When you’re bored and blue with short, gray days of snow, snow, snow and long dark nights of cold, cold, cold, bring out the grill and roll lefse. Better yet, do it with friends.
  4. You are never alone. With lefse making, you are immersed in memories of fantastic lefse-making times with family and friends. Plus, when you start making really good lefse, the universe senses this and the world will beat a path to your door. As I wrote in The Last Word on Lefse, “Never alone, and seldom sad, the life of a lefse maker isn’t so bad.”
  5. Tradition. Many people don’t have traditions at the holidays. Lefse makers do, and it’s a long and grand tradition. Food is the foundation of tradition, and your interest in making really good lefse will lead you to a lifelong quest for finding out about your history and culture.
  6. You become royalty. Yes, I am the Lefse King, but I know a lot of Lefse Queens and a few Lefse Kings. There is not just one Lefse King, and my goal is to coach up students to the point where they feel they have a shot at becoming a Lefse King in their own land. Like me, you may not be wild about classism and elitism and all that, but that doesn’t apply in the very democratic Lefse Land where everyone has a chance to become a Lefse Queen or Lefse King. Just make really good lefse.

It’s time. Time to pull out your lefse-making stuff and start rolling the way you’ve been taught. And if you have not been taught and want to learn to make really good lefse, I’m here!

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2 Lefse Lessons From Pastry Board Covers

Jennifer Johnson, left, and Helen Priestly left my lefse class — the first of 2022 — happy and holding pretty dang good lefse they made.

My lefse classes have begun, and my first was with Jennifer Johnson and Helen Priestly, shown above. They were naturals from the get-go but appreciated some tips I offered, and each left with a bag of their own lefse. In the class we discussed what the pastry board cover can teach you, and here are two lessons:

Stop the Sticking

What’s the biggest problem with making lefse? Sticking. Your dough sticks to the surface on which you’re rolling, and once you have a sticking spot, that spot continues to be a problem to the point where it wrecks round after round. The solution is my Blue Pastry Board Cover, which fits only on big boards that are 23 to 24 inches in diameter.

In your rapture of rolling good lefse, you may not notice a developing sticky spot. This is especially true when your pastry board cover is white. The lack of white flour that defines a sticky spot is not readily apparent on a white pastry board cover. But it is on a Blue Pastry Board Cover, as you see in the photo below. That dark blue center of the board is a spot that needs flour or you’ll have sticking. So roll elsewhere on the big board or re-flour that spot. BTW, you save flour and reduce kitchen mess with the blue cover because you can apply flour only to the dark spots and not the entire board.

Sticking is a common problem for lefse makers. The Blue Pastry Board Cover is the solution.

Roll It Read-Thru Thin

A question that always comes up in class is: “How thin do I roll my lefse?” When I was learning, the response was: “If you can read a newspaper beneath your round, you’re done.” Well, it’s cumbersome to slip a newspaper under each round, plus newspapers are getting harder and harder to find. But if you use the Blue Pastry Board Cover and start seeing blue coming through your round, you’ve got it thin enough. Or if you use the familiar Bethany white pastry board cover that fits Bethany’s 19-inch board only, you are in luck. Bethany marks the board in red lines and lettering, and you know your rounds are thin enough when you can read the red print under your round.

How thin should I roll my lefse round? Stop rolling when you can read the print on your pastry board cover.

To sum it up, avoid sticking and minimize your flour mess by using the Blue Pastry Board Cover. And roll your rounds real thin by rolling until you can see the blue or read the red print through your beautiful round. Keep on rolling!

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Three Lefse Grill Tune-up Tips

These probe controls for the lefse grill can burn out with long use.

I have four lefse grills that I use for my lefse classes and for market demonstrations, but only one was reliable … usually. The others were iffy in providing heat consistent enough for a productive lefse-making session. With the pandemic, I did my lessons using Zoom or had very small classes, which meant I could get by with one grill. I expect larger classes this year, so I will need to use more than one grill. This means tuning up my grills or replacing them.

My grandson Zo had a baseball tournament last summer at the Field of Dreams complex in Dyersville, Iowa. This is close to Cresco, Iowa, where the Bethany Housewares lefse grill assembly plant is. I called Bethany owner Roxy Svoboda (featured in Keep On Rolling!) and asked if she would tune up my grills when I drove home from the tournament. She said sure and even came to the plant on a Sunday to check out the grills.

Roxie fixed all four and my cost was about the same as buying one new grill. She said the grill itself will last for decades, but the parts in the electrical unit need care. Here are three tips:

  • Rub the prongs with steel wool. The two prongs inside the shield attached to the grill can get corroded from age and flour dust. This corrosion can mess up the connection to the replacement probe control that holds the temperature-control dial, and getting heat adequate for grilling can be problematic. Corrosion can lead to a loose connection and burning out the probe control (see image above). So shine the prongs with a fine steel wool as needed to restore optimum connection.
  • Use two replacement probe controls. The manual of the grill states that if your lefse-making session lasts more than 1.5 hours, you should switch out the replacement probe control with a second one. Temperatures near or at 500 degrees Fahrenheit over time are hard on the plastic of the probe control, so use a second one to protect this vital unit from burning out.
Have a second replacement probe control, and alternate them every 1.5 hours of use during your long lefse-making sessions.
  • Do not unplug your replacement probe control from the grill. I always used to pull the replacement probe control from the grill after making lefse. But I noticed that unplugging became easier and easier over time, which meant that the electrical connection between the grill and probe control was getting looser and looser. And this was reducing the heat generated on the grill. Now, I leave the probe control alone and store the cooled grill with probe control firmly connected. A new probe control should not insert easily into the grill; a firm push is needed and you know that the connection is tight. Repeatedly pulling the probe out and pushing it back in only loosens the connection, so leave the probe control connected to the grill when you are done.
Leave your replacement probe control connected to the grill after making lefse. Don’t pull the probe control out but store the cooled grill and probe control connected.
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4 Emotional Lefse (and Lutefisk) Moments

Chuck Voigt, left, and I hold lefse rolling pins I made from ash and walnut trees that blew down on his Illinois farm. We were roommates at the University of Illinois and are fellow singers.

Memories and emotions are at the ready with lefse. It connects us with Grandma when Grandma is gone, and lefse causes us to rally and keep on rolling so eager grandkids can get in on this grand old tradition.

I’ve experienced three memorable and emotional lefse moments recently, and even one lutefisk moment.

The first was last weekend when I traveled to Bonfield, Illinois, to deliver to Chuck Voigt two rolling pins I made. Chuck and I were roommates when we attended the University of Illinois, Urbana, and we were pretty dang good singers in a campus group call The Young Illini. A derecho roared through his area two years ago and blew down trees. He asked if I wanted some walnut and ash for turning rolling pins, and I said sure. The wood needed time to dry, so I could not produce the pins last year. Plus, I needed time to improve my woodturning skills, so waiting until this spring worked just fine.

The pins I presented were beautiful. That’s how woodturning goes; you listen to the wood, uncover its art and then let it speak for itself. Where there were small cracks, I put in an inlay as a decorative filling. But the overriding beauty was in the moment. Old friends and old wood from a family farm converted into functional pieces of art that will last at least as long as our friendship has. We are both old enough to know that you don’t know what the future holds, that you take in these moments and savor them. For years and years, Chuck and I communicated once a year or so, but with the creation of these rolling pins, we were back and forth more in the last two years than in all the years since college. That is a good thing, to not let friends drift off and to keep friendships fresh. Chuck and I are going to keep on rolling!

Rolling pin with walnut barrel and ash handles. The wood was too beautiful to add traditional lefse rolling pin grooves, so it became a general rolling pin.
Traditional lefse rolling pin with ash barrel and walnut handles.

The second memorable moment was a few weeks ago when a man who has been bed-ridden for the last year and a half with Guillain-Barre Syndrome contacted me, wanting fresh lefse. It was a joy to make six rounds and then later 12 more so that his friend could pick up the orders. Lefse stays with you throughout life. You may leave it for one reason or another for a while, but it won’t leave you. I once made lefse at a nursing home, and a man started crying as he chewed a buttered round. He said he hadn’t had lefse in 75 years. Oh, the memories of that man and this man with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. That’s the power of lefse.

Lutefisk lip balm, always a hit!

The third memorable moment was a lutefisk moment last Christmastime. A woman wrote thanking me for providing Lutefisk Lip Balm, which is actually vanilla bean flavored. But it’s the label that sells this product, especially with the description of lutefisk at the side:”The Cod That Passes All Understanding”.

The woman said this about the Lutefisk Lip Balm. “My mom was in hospice at Christmas,” she wrote, “and it was the gift that generated the biggest smile! My mom just passed two weeks ago … “

The final moving moment was at the beginning of this month at Cragun’s Resort near Brainerd, Minnesota. I was rolling lefse and selling my stuff at the Sons of Norway District 1 Convention. I sold fresh lefse throughout the day, and fellow exhibitor, author and artist Sven Lindauer (The Art & Craft of Ancient Scandinavia), was primed for lefse at the end of a long day and asked that I save him two bags (six rounds).

He collected his two bags, and as I started to pack up, a dutiful delegate named Oscar entered the exhibitor’s room seriously seeking lefse. He was one of the delegates who actually attended the meetings he was supposed to, and only now had time to search for his lefse.

He was crushed when I said I was out, that my last two bags were just snapped up. The expression on Oscar’s face did not escape the eye of artist Sven. That’s what artists do, notice those things and paint them. (Sven mentioned that he was going to paint Oscar’s expression.)

Big-hearted Sven, who had been anticipating lefse all day and saying so many times, piped up and said that he would give Oscar one of his bags. Oh, the smile on Oscar’s face was actually noticeable, which is saying a lot for a Norwegian! Sven made Oscar’s day (week? month?) as well as mine. Sven knew the power of lefse, and we all knew the power of his sacrifice. Here’s to Sven … Saint Sven, Bringer of Norwegian Smiles and Other Miracles!

Author Sven Lindauer made the supreme sacrifice just to make a crushed, lefse-less Norwegian’s day. For that, he’s an early frontrunner for Lefse Person of the Year!
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How Not to Throw Lefse in the Wash

A disaster was averted when I discovered in the wash basket a perfectly good lefse round between dishtowels used for cooling the lefse rounds. Whew!

I was making lefse recently to fill a summertime order and couldn’t lay my hands on my lefse cozy for some reason. So I went old school and used dishtowels that I inherited from my grandma and others. The dishtowels work fine but are not as easy to open and close as the lefse cozies I sell, and they are not as colorful.

My lefse cozies are colorful and easy to open and close.

I finished rolling lefse to fill my order, and I had one lefse round left over, which I let cool between the towels. The customer picked up the order, and, occupied with what was next in my day, I started putting away my grill, turning stick, rolling board and rolling pin. I gathered up the dishtowels and threw them in the laundry basket.

Of course, when an abandoned lefse round is in the house, a lefse lover responds … eventually. A few hours after cleaning up, I was hankering for a lefse round with tea. I frowned and wondered where that extra lefse was. I searched all over the kitchen but no luck. Had someone else eaten it? No one confessed.

Luckily, I was scheduled to do the wash that day, and sure enough, there was the abandoned lefse round wrapped and wadded up in the dishtowels. I don’t want to think of the mess had that gone through the wash — and what a tragic loss of a good lefse that would have been!

The lesson for me was to use a lefse cozy. You don’t wad it up and throw it in the laundry as you do dishtowels. You just pick it up and put it in a mesh bag so that the sewing holding the two cozy rounds together won’t fray with the agitation of the washer. When you pick up the cozy, whatever lefse is in there simply slides out. No laundry lefse!

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2nd Annual Lefse Limerick Contest Winners

2022 Lefse Limerick Contest Winners

Wow! What a contest! The 2022 Lefse Limerick Contest produced such fun and fine limericks that it forced me to go to weeks of DOGGONE IT, MAKE A DECISION!! training — which I failed. It started, I suppose, with difficulty in choosing between Zoom and in-person. I blame it on carrying the burden/gift of being a Gemini.

But in my defense, these limericks were good and plentiful. One guy submitted 64 of them, and most of the entrants emailed multiple submissions, often with notes of thanks for offering the contest and giving them a chance to get away from the pandemic and the war and let loose the dogs of creativity! What a wonderful image of them noodling away at the kitchen table in winter’s bright slanting sun, with coffee and notebook and a grin to go with the limerick’s punchline.

This year’s contest was about lefse and love, not only about the fervor of loving lefse but also about the passion in loving someone. The charge was to do your best to follow the limerick’s engaging rhythm and rhyming. If you were a bit off in counting the beats, it hurt your chances slightly, but with just one slip, I let it pass.

So limerick lovers in Lefseland, without further adieu, I give you the winners of the 2022 Lefse Limerick Contest!

Margie Oloughlin, First Place

Margie Oloughlin, from Northfield, Minnesota, won the contest, and frankly, choosing the winner was relatively easy. Her entry had all the elements of a limerick — it reads with easy rhythm — and her combining lefse and love and passion and humor were spot on. Nice!

There once was a lefse-less Dane
Whose diet was woefully plain
Til she met a Norsk troll
And with him she did roll
And her night times were never the same

Under stars and the light of the moon
Lefse steamed amid kisses and soon
Through flour and frost
Their minds became lost
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

And for her wit, Margie wins the all-walnut lefse rolling pin below!

First place prize: walnut lefse rolling pin made by me.
John Ofstehage, second place tie, with Betty

John Ofstehage, from Greenwood, Minnesota, tied for second place with this limerick combining online dating and lefse:

Online dating, I’ll give it a go
My profile, I want it to show
That I’m a skilled baker
A great lefse maker
Seeking someone, kneading the dough
Sonja, second place tie, with Brandon

Sonja (last name withheld), pictured with son Brandon, tied for second place. Sonja is from White Rock, New Mexico, and her limerick has some sass!

My love, it is high time we ate.
What is this round thing on my plate?
It's lefse my dear.
Please try not to jeer,
Or we may not have a next date. 
Second place winners get this lefse cozy.

Third Place Winners

OK, I was doing pretty well in my decision making until it came time to decide on third place. Then my decisiveness got decidedly worse. So I finally decided to duck the decision and award all who were in my third-place file. In no particular order, they are:

Howard Hoganson

Howard Hoganson, from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, went on limerick bacchanalia and submitted 64 of them! My man! Here’s one:

Lefse is precious and blind
Each thin sheet is one of a kind
Mother them sweetly
And so completely
Love treasures so dear to the mind
Lisa R. Lukis

Lisa R. Lukis, from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, saluted family tradition with this limerick. ‘Tates, btw, are potatoes.

Dad knows how to handle the ‘tates
‘Cause he hails from one of the greats
Norwegian great-gran’
Came to this land
Love and lefse were her sweet traits
Heidi Bacon

Heidi Bacon, from Red Wing, Minnesota, was one of last year’s winners. She’s back with this rather spirited limerick personifying lefse and butter:

There once was a lefse named Larry -
Sweet Butter he did want to marry
He gave her some sugar,
(She sure was a cougar)
But, uff da! She worth it? Yes, very!
Judy L. Halbakken

Judy L. Halbakken, from Bellingham, Washington, submitted a lefse photo that matched the beauty in the above photo of her in the Pacific Northwest. Here is her limerick that mixes lefse, love, and …

There once was a young Norsky man
Who said to his wife, "If you can
Make lefse — I'll love you
With love always true,
But lutefisk she made, and he ran!
Jim Leet, with pups whose mother is Valkyrie

Jim Leet, from Roseburg, Oregon, is another winner from last year. Judging from the above picture and the number of limericks Jim submitted, it’s puppy love with him and limericks. Here’s one:

If lefse’s your favorite food
Enhancing your Norse attitude
Your passion for rounds
As strange as it sounds
Just makes you a loveable dude 
Sheryl Hove

Sheryl Hove, from St. Paul, Minnesota, submitted eight limericks, and here is her winner:

The lefse took hold of his heart
They pledged to never be apart
Then lut'fisk she cooked
And he suddenly looked
Like, so how did this marriage start?
Charles E. Voigt and rutabaga

Charles E. Voigt, from Bonfield, Illinois, pulled away from his Herculean task of cracking some 2,500 black walnuts to write six limericks, including this one about black walnut lefse.

Black walnuts make lefse appealing,
Rolled with brown sugar and feeling.
The flavor’s intense,
We’re not on the fence.
You’ll love it, so don’t hit the ceiling!
Mardi Knudson

Mardi Knudson, from St. Cloud, Minnesota, proudly stands near the “Welcome Poets” sign, so you know her limerick has to have deep, deep thought and feeling. Here it is:

There once was a Norsky that cried,
"Make lefse dear Norwegian bride!"
Liv did roll those rounds
Feeding Leif big mounds
Till her hands and temper were fried!

John Ziegenhagen, from Minnetonka, Minnesota, was last year’s winner. John is a bit of a loose cannon with limericks, never afraid of inventing words to fit the line and always looking for the limerick gut punch. He submitted six limericks, and here’s one, influenced by the Bard, about a truly tragic kind of lefse love:

There once was a doofus named Romeo.
Who put in his lefse hemlockeo.
Poor Juliet took a bite,
And out went her light.
He’d killed her, of that, there’s no doubteo.
John Ziegenhagen

Portly Bard prefers not to use his name or reveal his location. He says he simply wants to be left alone to produce poetry and limericks, including this sweet winner:

True love is like lefse I'm told,
Hard work and delight to unfold.
If it's worth it today,
Make your lefse and say
"Next course is more Norse to behold."

All third place winners receive my lefse novel, Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse.

Thanks, all lefse limericists who entered the contest. You have lightened the last couple of months, and let’s do it again next year. All of you who entered will receive the 2022 Let’s Make Lefse! Calendar.

2022 Let’s Make Lefse! Calendar
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2nd Annual Lefse Limerick Contest

Contest winner will receive an all-walnut lefse rolling pin—made by me—with a walnut stand.

Once again, I run the risk of offering a limerick contest, the 2nd Annual Lefse Limerick Contest that runs throughout the rest of the month of January until February 10, just before Valentine’s Day. Of course, the topic of all limericks is lefse and love! Email your lefse-love limericks to glegwold@lutefisk.com.

Let’s get right to the risk. Wikipedia defines a limerick as “a form of verse, usually humorous and frequently rude,” in five-lines. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme, and the third and fourth lines, which are shorter, have a different rhyme.

The form originated in England in the 18th century and became popular in the 19th century. Wikipedia says, “Gershon Legman, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology, held that the true limerick as a folk form is always obscene … . From a folkloric point of view, the form is essentially transgressive; violation of taboo is part of its function.”

Wikipedia cites the following example is a limerick of unknown origin:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

A Clean Lefse Limerick

So you see the risk of running a Lefse Limerick Contest. To be true to form, a lefse limerick, it appears, should be “obscene” and “frequently rude” and a “violation of taboo.” Oh, dear!

Well, following the exact form of a limerick will never do in here Lefse Land. We have our fun with lefse and certainly lutefisk, but we are never rude or obscene. No, no, no!

And yet, it is possible to dance along the borders of the true limerick to create an entertaining lefse limerick. Check this out:

There once was a Norsky named Niles
He endured a rough month with the piles
He ate lefse — was cured!
So please rest assured
On those who love lefse, God smiles.

There, that wasn’t so bad! I dance along the border of the true limerick with mention of “piles” in the second line, but I never cross the line. You must admit, the limerick could have gone decidedly south after that. But it didn’t, and we end up with smiles.

A Lefse-Love Limerick

For the 2nd Annual Lefse Limerick Contest, you must write a limerick about lefse and love. After all, Valentine’s Day is approaching! Here’s one I just made up, for example. I couldn’t resist being part of the fun.

There once was a woman named Joyce
Who was faced with a difficult choice:
Pick lefse or Bob
And try not to sob
”Sorry, Bob, the lefse looks moist!”

Ok, your turn. Write a lefse-love limerick—including lefse and love is mandatory—and enter the contest. Keep it clean, remember! Check out this site on how to write a limerick. Do your very best with having eight beats in the first, second, and fifth lines with the last word in those lines rhyming. Then five beats in the third and fourth lines, with the last word in those lines having a different rhyme than the last word in the first, second, and fifth lines.

Send your lefse-love limerick or limericks to glegwold@lutefisk.com. Submit as many lefse-love limericks as you want until midnight on February 10. Winners will be announced February 14. Oh, winners will receive:

  1. First place: all-walnut lefse rolling pin and stand—made by me!
  1. Second place: Keep On Rolling Holly & Brass Cozy—Red Trim.
  1. Third place: autographed copy of my latest Book: Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse.
Final Rounds
  1. All limericks of note receive a 2022 Let’s Make Lefse! Calendar.

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Best Lefse-Making Tip #4

Sticking is a common problem for lefse makers. The blue pastry board cover is the solution.

In my classes — and perhaps in your kitchen — the biggest problem lefse makers have is with sticking. Nothing is more frustrating than to roll a beautifully round and elegantly thin lefse … and then tear the round because it sticks to the rolling surface! Not only does it ruin the round, but it also creates a trouble spot on your rolling surface. That darn spot will cause sticking throughout your lefse-making session.

My solution is to go big and go blue. Use a big 23 1/2-inch Keep On Rolling Pastry Board and cover it with a Blue Pastry Board Cover. With the big board — as opposed to the 19-inch board commonly found on the market — you’ll use less flour and have less sticking. You can use the whole board, rolling at the periphery versus just the center. I instruct my students to start rolling their round until it is about half the size of what they want the final round to be. Then turn the round and move it to a different spot on the board to finish. That way, they are not grinding away at that same spot typically in the center of the board, which will cause sticking sooner or later.

With the bigger board, you simply have more room to not only turn and move the round but also to use less flour — which makes for a cleaner kitchen. You move your round to a spot where you can see there is plenty of flour on the board already. How can you see? The blue cover contrasts with the the white flour (see photo), and you immediately see that the darker spot has potential to be a sticky spot that you avoid. So without re-flouring the board, you move your round to where you can see there is more flour than that dark blue spot. Things are not so obvious when you have a white pastry board cover under white flour.

So go big and go blue for less sticking and more satisfaction in lefse making.

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Best Lefse-Making Tip #3

Don’t skimp on butter and cream when making your lefse dough.

I was watching a YouTube video on making lefse. The recipe called for 6 cups of riced potatoes, which is twice the amount of riced potatoes in my basic recipe. OK, not a problem so far. But the video recipe had half the amount of butter and cream as what I use in my 3 cups of riced potatoes. Twice the potatoes but half the good stuff? They were skimping.

Yes, you can make lefse by skimping, and it will look like lefse and sorta taste like lefse. But why? Cost? Concerns about fat in your diet? Ok, you can save money with less butter and cream in your dough. And yes, you can cut back on the butter fat.

But don’t. Just don’t. Lefse is once or twice a year, and you want to go all in on making the best-tasting lefse you can. And when you consider the butter fat content per round, it’s not much at all. If anything, go a little strong with the butter and cream to not only bring out a richness in the flavor, but also to make the lefse tender and moist.

I recently switched to Kemps Simply Crafted Heavy Whipping Cream (pictured). It has 20% saturated fat, more saturated fat than the cream I was using previously. I immediately noticed a difference in the tenderness and taste of my lefse, and I am sticking with this cream. You may not have this brand in your stores, but I highly recommend going with a cream with the highest fat content.

So don’t be a skimper when making lefse. Not with your butter or cream, and by all means go ahead and use a rounded tablespoon of sugar instead of a leveled tablespoon. This is lefse, not less se!