Well, not quite giving them away … but I’m giving them to the first 15 readers who send me a lefse or lutefisk joke. If the joke is good — and just about any lefse or lutefisk joke is good (except some lutefisk jokes) — and you are among the first 15 who send in a good joke, you’ll get a free lefse calendar full of photos, illustrations, lefse quotes, lefse-making tips, and humor.
Two Green Bay Packers fans we’re seated next to a Minnesota
Vikings fan at a lutefisk dinner. The Vikings fan must have had a problem
because he kept excusing himself to go to the bathroom.
The Packers fans, being the prankish sort, spit on the
Vikings fans lutefisk when he went to the bathroom. He returned, took a bite of
lutefisk, and did not seem to notice the spit.
The next time the Vikings fan left the table, the Packers
fans asked him to please return with two beers. Again, the Packers fans spit on
the Vikings fan’s lutefisk.
The Vikings fan returned with two foamy glasses of beer, which the Packers fans drank with great satisfaction. The Vikings fan sat down and took another bite of lutefisk. With a look of disgust, he said, ”How long must this go on? Why can’t we rivals live in peace? What causes Packers and Vikings fans to stoop to such lowliness that we spit on each other’s lutefisk and pee in each other’s beers?”
In summary, be among the first 15 to send your lefse or lutefisk jokes to email@example.com.
I write my 2018 Norsk Hostfest report from Paris, France, where I am vacationing. Writer friend Tim Brady asked if I was hanging out on the Lefse Bank. His wit is unparalleled, but so far I have not found lefse. However, I can hold on until the end of the week when I head to Norway.
Finding lefse was not a problem last week when I sold books and lefse-lutefisk stuff at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. Gotta say that of all the attractions — the scads of excellent comedy and musical acts (mostly free) as well as the endless shopping — the most attractive thing to see was the sea of Scandinavians who were actually smiling! I swear — and some were laughing! They’d come to my table looking grumpy, but then they’d brighten when they saw my lefse and lutefisk books. That made me feel good.
Lefse Masters Competition
This smiling stuff got out of hand during the Lefse Masters Celebrity Competition, featuring Daniel O’Donnell, Williams & Ree, and The Texas Tenors. I was to serve as a judge. The competition started at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday on the stage of Stockholm Hall. I was a bit late getting there, and as I walked into Stockholm Hall, the room was charged and laughter was directed at the stage, which I could not see. I was confused why so many people were spilling from the stage area into the vendor aisles and up the stairs to what is the Lefse Mezzanine, where the Lefse Masters is held throughout the week for the non-celebs. But as I wove my way through the crowd, it became clear folks were there to watch the celebs roll and grill lefse. I was to sit at the judges’ table front and center and observe the skills and techniques of the contestants.
Don’t Let That Smoke Bother You
The only problem was it was difficult to discern dexterity with the rolling pin or turning stick with all the smoke rising from the grills. Daniel O’Donnell, poor lad, was the chief culprit. His grill was smoking like a chimney, and lefse was burning so badly that he finally just chucked a charred lefse offstage. But he atoned for himself by rushing to the microphone and singing a lovely “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” — subbing new lyrics that included “my lefse is a burnin’.”
Round? What Is Round, Exactly?
It seemed that the lefse’s shape was of secondary concern to the contestants. The irrepressible Terry Ree had to point out that the lefse rolled by The Texas Tenors was looking like the shape of the state Texas and — whoops — “they just lost the panhandle, folks.” His partner, Bruce Williams, was largely silent but slipped into some sexual rolling when Ree demanded that he roll “faster” and “not so hard.” Which caused a confused Daniel O’Donnell to ask, “What kind of show are we doing here?”
The judging was difficult between Daniel O’Donnell and The Texas Tenors, with TTT coming out on top with a pretty nice lefse. Williams & Ree? They submitted a lefse that looked like it had been used to clean a cannon.
All good fun, good enough to make the Scandies smile.
Yes, Lutefisk Lip Balm!
My last day at the Hostfest I was relieved to discover the lutefisk lip balm. Cost was $2 on sale at a store outside the Great Hall, where all the big-name acts appear. I was disappointed that the lutefisk lip balm did not smell or taste like lutefisk. I mean, I like lutefisk and would have considerd it a bold move had the makers of this balm gone for the real deal rather than a vanilla bean flavor. The label said of this lip balm: “It will put the fear of cod in you.” Vanilla bean does instill any fear. We can do better than this!
Hand-Painted Lefse Rolling Pins
The lefse makers who were judged to have made lefse so good that they placed first, second, or third in Hostfest’s Lefse Masters lefse-making competition earned a cash prize of $200, $100, and $50 plus lefse rolling pins that are adorned by a rose medallion painter. Very cool awards that will undoubtedly be passed down for generations to come.
Here’s to Ron Garcia!
Ron Garcia jokes that during the Norsk Hostfest he is “Norwegian for a week.” Works for me. He is the hall crier, the man who without aid of a microphone or megaphone bellows to those in Helsinki Hall, where the Author’s Corner is, that the hall will open or close in 10 minutes or that the hall is now open or closed for business. Then he sets the tone as the day begins with, “Have a great day, everyone!”
Ron is a Hostfest original and one of the most endearing men you’ll meet in Minot. Frankly, he is one of the reasons I return year after year. See you in 2019, Ron!
Blaine Pederson emailed from Starbuck, Minnesota, last week that Larry Kittelson had died unexpectedly at age 80. When I researched The Last Word on Lefsein 1992, I interviewed six of The Boys of Starbuck, as I called this group nine men who came up with a goofy idea for Starbuck’s first Heritage Days in 1983: Make a lefse so big that it would go into the Norwegian Schibsted Book of Records.
Larry Kittelson could not make it to Gordy’s Cafe for the group interview back in 1992, and I regretted not meeting this baker who had owned the Pastry Shoppe. Larry made the dough for the World’s Largest Lefse — and then reformulated it at the 11th hour when a trial run had failed. Larry was key because, as all lefse makers know, if you don’t have the dough, there ain’t no show.
When I researched Keep On Rolling!in 2017, I was sad to learn that all The Boys had died, all except Larry. So it was a joy to finally meet him and ask him to tell me the story, for old time’s sake, of the making of the nine-foot, eight-inch monster lefse. Here is a portion of the interview, which you can read in entirety in Keep on Rolling!:
Legwold: The dough for this monster lefse was made up of 30 pounds of potatoes, right?
Larry: Right, instant potatoes. Potato Buds. We also used flour (35 pounds), sugar (1 pound), powdered milk (1 pound), and shortening (4 pounds).
Legwold: In the week before the actual event, you had two practice times. Why?
Larry: We didn’t want to look like idiots. We put plywood on a hayrack and covered the plywood with a sheet. The first practice night, we rolled with regular 3-foot-long pins from the bakery. And when we had the lefse all rolled out, we put it on the big roller. When we hauled it over to the grill, it fell apart. We tried it on a second practice night and added puff-paste shortening used to make apple turnovers. It helped hold the dough together. We chilled the dough well, and used more charcoal to get more heat under the grill. So the second practice went better. We didn’t do another trial with the puff-paste shortening in the dough. It was like, “This here will work or else.” I figured it would work on the day of the event, and it worked like a charm.
Legwold: How thin was the world-record lefse?
Larry: About as thin as that napkin there. It wasn’t thick by any means, like the thickness of two normal lefse stacked on top of each other.
Legwold: Did it bubble up on the grill?
Larry: Yep, just like regular lefse.
Legwold: After you accomplished the feat of making the record lefse, why not quit? Why did you try again right away—especially when that second one fell apart?
Larry: I made a batch twice the amount we needed, and I wanted to use up the damn dough. I didn’t want to waste the rest of the batch. That second time didn’t work as good, but luck was on our side with the first one.
Legwold: Other towns like Clarkfield and Madison [both in Minnesota] called for information on how to beat your record, right? What did you say to them?
Larry: An outfit from Washington state also called, and they wanted to try to break our record. I think I even gave them my recipe. I don’t remember. I probably didn’t give them the secret about the puff paste (laughs).
Legwold: Did this event put Starbuck on the map?
Larry: It sure did for a while. It really helped. You know, anything a small town can do nowadays to get itself on the map helps. We had the World’s Largest Lefse and Heritage Days in 1983, and Lefse Dagen started in 1987. That record lefse brings a lot of people to town. It gives us some bragging rights.
Larry, you were a fine man, a civic leader, and a good baker who brought joy to many who enjoy a tasty treat with coffee. You were also a lefse maker who made lefse history — big time — and someone who I will always remember fondly.
You can read it in the breathless style of writing and focus that Mary Lou Peterson uses when she describes being the first person to put together the 504-piece Let’s Make Lefse! Jigsaw Puzzle. “I saw the lefse puzzle and knew immediately that I needed to have it,” wrote Mary Lou from Minnetonka, Minnesota.
I can only imagine what she was thinking during this dramatic moment in history. Observing her sketchy writing style, I thought that perhaps she sensed she was on the precipice of making lefse history and was rushing to be the first finisher of the lefse puzzle and therefore the first puzzler to enter the Lefse Hall of Fame. And yet she kept her wits about her and jotted notes, knowing that all in Lefse Land would be begging for details once the word spread.
History will mark Mary Lou as a gamer. She had the right stuff, that obsessive drive that causes all jigsaw joy seekers to stay up late and get up early so that they can find the proper home for every last piece of the puzzle. As a nurse who has years of experience dealing with life-and-death situations, she knew she had to be steady and levelheaded under immense pressure to finish this puzzle before anyone else in Lefse Land. She knew she had to keep her eye on the prize and not be distracted by the ballyhoo and big bucks that would come with entering the Lefse Hall of Fame. Steady, Mary Lou, steady …
For the record, Mary Lou and family finished the Let’s Make Lefse Jigsaw Puzzle on August 20, 2018, and posted a photo of her prize puzzle on Facebook with a note that modestly said, “Done….”
Well done, Mary Lou! Here’s to you and your spot in history!
And here are Mary Lou’s notes that will be recorded in the Lefse Hall of Fame:
I saw the lefse puzzle and knew immediately that I needed to have it. The puzzle boxes, two extra for Christmas, arrived….
I cleared the dining table, emptied the bag that held the pieces … stood back … which part to do first??
I had a slow start. I had not done a puzzle for years. It took a plan….
I separated the colors, the stripes, and the edge pieces. Then I started … a bit slow at first….
I recruited my daughter, Kara Peterson. My husband, Craig Peterson, came by and was help….
It took several days … a few minutes at a time as I passed the table where the puzzle was being assembled. The big lefse done … it got easier and edges were completed … the arms and hands … the lefse turner’s….
Kara commented how it was tricky that the hands were in three places and that there was all this blue in the puzzle. Craig worked on the stove in the puzzle’s background. He has a good eye and had that section completed pretty quickly.
Finally, it all came together — and finished!
Then I grabbed the phone for a picture and posted on FB.
The Minnesota State Fair set the total attendance record this year with 2,046,533 visitors, about 50,000 more than what was the record last year. There were several contributing factors (good weather, good economy), but the biggest reason for the new record was the introduction of the lefse beer called Uffda Ale. Fer sure!
Uffda Ale is a new brew made by Beaver Island Brewing, and it was sold at Giggles’ Campfire Grill at the southeast corner of Lee Avenue and Cooper Street, at the North Woods. Frankly, I had my doubts about this beer, that it would turn out to be a gimmicky embarrassment to all of us who honor all things lefse. But it wasn’t! It was actually a good, smooth beer that went down easily and benefitted from the zing of a handful of added lingonberries. And the Lefse Chip (a strip of fried, salted lefse) was a tasty touch.
As I stood in line for my Uffda Ale at Giggles’, I observed that about half of those walking away with a beer in their hand were carrying the Uffda Ale with the Lefse Chip on top. Hmmm … .
The day I attended, there were 270,426 visitors, which set the one-day attendance record. Is it too much of a stretch to say that 135,213 (half) of them were there because they had heard of this new lefse beer and just had to try it? Fer sure!
That’s a Lotta Lefse
After I enjoyed my first Uffda Ale made with lefse, I just had to visit my friends at the Jacobs Lefse Bakeri & Gifts booth. They were selling all things lefse and some almond cookies that are so good they make you want to find a quiet corner and eat all six in the bag. They were also selling my two lefse books; Jacobs is featured in both.
Perhaps inspired by the Uffda Ale, I held up my latest book, Keep on Rolling!, and said in a very loud voice, “Boy, this sure looks like a great book!” Bonnie turned from making a lefse rollup. She didn’t recognize me and turned back to her work, probably thinking I was a kook. Joanne immediately recognized me and smiled as she approached. Bonnie then came over, and we all talked and took a photo.
Before leaving, I asked Bonnie how many lefse rounds Jacobs sells a day at the Fair.
“Oh, I don’t know, about 2,000,” she said.
Amazing! I’m glad that Jacobs has been at the Fair for the last 18 years keeping the lefse tradition alive.
When you’re flummoxed by life, make lefse. It’ll calm you down and help you figure things out — or at least help to put the problem aside so you can come back to it fresh.
Jigsaw puzzles are also calming. When you start one, you ease into a meditation that can turn into a fun obsession. Time slips away as you deliberately test your eye and memory. With so many pieces of the puzzle, it can seem overwhelming. So you shoot for small victories. You celebrate a corner piece, the establishment of your border, the coupling of that sneaky, amoeba-shaped piece that has tricked and eluded you for hours.
With lefse making and jigsaw puzzles, you can easily slip into a blissful time when your mind is devoted to just … one … thing.
Lefse and Jigsaw Puzzles
Every Christmas I make lefse, of course, but I also give Jane Legwold, my wife, a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. She loves them, staying up late and rising early until the puzzle is done. She pulls in me, the kids, and the grandkids, and finishing this thing — fueled by lefse and tea — becomes the Christmas Quest.
As Jane and I teamed up on last Christmas season’s obstinate puzzle, I said jokingly to her that there should be a lefse jigsaw puzzle. She sorta shrugged but didn’t dismiss the idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of a unique puzzle —a lefse jigsaw puzzle! — that helps the whole family learn about lefse equipment and some of the steps in making lefse. Very cool!
I compiled four colorful-yet-instructive lefse-making photos, and had a 504-piece sample puzzle made. Jane, accustomed to solving 1,000-piece puzzles, sniffed at the “Let’s Make Lefse!” puzzle, perhaps thinking this little thing would be a snap.
Well, it wasn’t and it earned her praise, which is high praise indeed. The rest of the family is less hardcore, so we liked that the 504-piece puzzle was challenging yet not overpowering. Most of all, we liked that the “Let’s Make Lefse!” puzzle — just like lefse making — was unusual, pretty, fun to do, and brought the whole family together.
You may have noticed I took a break from blogging and The Lefse & Lutefisk News for the last month. Two reasons:
First, it’s the low lefse season, and all’s quiet on the lefse front. After all, making lefse in a hammock is pretty tricky.
Second, my son, Ben Legwold, his future father-in-law, Kou Vang, and I just finished a 16’ x 20’ deck that attaches to his new house here in the Twin Cities. It was the first deck for all of us, and it turned out great. From time to time my thoughts turned to the similarities between deck building and lefse making, of course, and here are my top five:
Deck building and lefse making are best when done with others. The buddy system works. When you tire or get discouraged, your partners can pick you up. Also, your strengths tend to complement their strengths. In lefse making, one may like making dough while the others like rolling and grilling. With deck building, I could get bogged down with overthinking square and level and meeting code. But Ben and Kou would keep us moving with their intuitive style.
You can do anything with the right tools. Since I was my son’s age, I have been building up tools for projects I would do at my houses. I am glad I have had them, and I threw all my tools—and a couple of new ones I didn’t know existed—at this deck project. Early on, my dilemma was: Do I pay for tools and risk making a royal mess of things out of ignorance and lack of confidence, or do I just use the money to hire a professional to do it right? Sure, I hired pros when I knew I would be in over my head. But often, I’d buy the tools, usually be the best ones affordable, and let the tools and particulars of the projects teach me. The same is true of lefse-making equipment. Buy the best and give yourself a chance to make the best lefse.
What if lefse had to meet code? Think about that. What if you had to take out a permit—which you have to do with deck building—before you made every batch of lefse you intended to share with family or sell to customers at the holidays? And then those batches had to meet a lefse code and pass inspection? Oh, the Perfectionist Support Group meetings would be packed!
Surprises and humor await! You can plan your deck building and lefse making to the nth degree, but stuff happens. Your rolling pin breaks, so you roll lefse using a sock-covered tube of caulk. Your deck isn’t square, so you make the ends of one corner meet by setting a second post at that corner. NB: Our deck was square.
You must celebrate. Just as it is unthinkable that you not sit and savor lefse with your lefse team when the rolling is done, you must also celebrate your deck again and again. Eat on it, watch sun rises, and discover constellations with family and friends. Lefse and decks invite the best of living.
When I recorded the second half-hour show of the cable TV program Merry’s Eclectic Interests (CCX Create), I was uncomfortable with my on-screen label, the Lefse King. But I’ve always been uncomfortable with that title. Heck, there are lots of excellent lefse makers who could call themselves kings and queens, but they don’t because they are reserved Scandinavians who find people that tag themselves with titles to be suspect.
I am also a reserved Scandinavian, but I go with the title because when I registered for a domain name, Lefse King (www.lefseking.com) was available when other lefse names were taken. So I winced and went with it because it had a certain ring to it, and it was easy to market. Still, I call myself the reluctant Lefse King and say in the show that I always learn something from every lefse maker I meet.
In this show, the reluctant Lefse King gives Mary Ellen Zagrabelny, the show’s host, and the viewers a lesson on how to make lefse. I cover equipment options, ingredients in my recipe, techniques, the honoring of heritage, two lefse controversies, and the benefit of “namby-pamby” lefse.
I was nervous as the recording for the TV show was about to begin. How did I look? Would I be witty during the recording, or would the lights and cameras and the moment tie my tongue? And of course, the persistent question with me no matter what I do: Would I be perfect — and when I’m not, would I be OK with “pretty darn good”?
And then I thought of lefse. This recording of two, 30-minute TV shows last spring was about lefse. Lefse is the show no matter what, I told myself, so let lefse carry the day.
That calmed me, and the cameras rolled. Mary Ellen Zagrabelny, host of Merry’s Eclectic Interests on cable (CCX Create), started asking me about my beginnings with lefse and how lefse has been my muse. How did learning to make this simple flatbread feed the writing of two lefse books, the teaching of lefse classes, the developing of the Lefse Trail, and the promoting of all things lefse with sales of related products on LefseKing.com?
Talking Back to the Bad Boy
The interview went well, and the time flew by. It was really fun! But weeks later when I received the link to the edited video, I didn’t open it for days. The final version of the video — or more specifically, me — was not going to be perfect, I knew. I would come up short, once again.
Ah, but I have put up with this voice of perfectionism, the Great Oppressor, for years, and I know enough to talk back to this bad boy. I did so, and then clicked on the link.