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Lazy Susan Lefse

Alice Holland has fine tuned the lefse-rolling process by adding Lazy Susan hardware to her lefse pastry board.

I learn from every lefse maker I meet. A little tip, a refinement in the recipe or way of making lefse, perhaps a joke or a song. It keeps lefse making fresh for me, and I make a lot of lefse friends.

I met a lot of lefse makers when I spoke at the Sons of Norway Vennekretsen Lodge in Anoka, Minnesota. One of them was Alice Holland, who handed me a paper with two photos on it and her phone number. A few days after my presentation, I called Alice and she explained the photos and how she made her own lefse pastry board with Lazy Susan hardware attached to the bottom. I was intrigued.

“In 1986, I had a back injury,” Alice said, “and it’s difficult for me to twist my back.” In 1990, during a kitchen remodeling project, workers cut a hole in the countertop material to make room for the kitchen sink. The hole was 19 inches across, and Alice the lefse maker immediately seized the cutout piece for use as a lefse pastry board for rolling lefse. And because of her back issue, she fixed to the board Lazy Susan hardware she purchased from The Home Depot.

“With that, I don’t have to twist my back when I roll lefse,” Alice says. “Just rotate the board with a little push of my thumb.”

I decided to give Lazy Susan lefse making a try. I realized how much I bend and twist and dance around my pastry board as I adjust the angle of my rolling pin in order to roll round rounds. I often rotate the board because I move around the perimeter of the board when rolling. Because I’m not grinding on the same spot in the middle of the board, I reduce the amount of flour used—which makes for more tender lefse—and it prevents the dreaded sticking problem.

I used to add rubber feet to the Keep On Rolling Pastry Board that I sell, but I have removed the feet because it’s easier to rotate the board without them. Using a Lazy Susan lefse board would make it even easier to rotate the board.

My pastry board with Lazy Susan hardware attached. Note that I have removed the rubber feet so the board rotates freely.

To make a Lazy Susan lefse pastry board, I purchased at Menards a 12-inch Lazy Susan by Shepherd Hardware Products. A true Lazy Susan would attach the lefse pastry board to a base board. I decided not to attach my rolling board to a base board because it would require drilling through the rolling board. I didn’t want holes and screw heads messing up the surface of my rolling board. I also didn’t want the extra weight and clunkiness that would come with a second board.

So I simply used No. 8 x 1/2-inch flat head wood screws to attach the Lazy Susan to the bottom of my board I have used for years. I had to use flat head screws; round head screws would prevent the Lazy Susan parts from moving freely. My board is 1/2 inch thick but the 1/2-inch screw don’t poke through to the rolling surface because the thickness of the Lazy Susan hardware stop the screws from sinking a full 1/2 inch.

After attaching the hardware to the board, the last detail was cutting a piece of perforated rubber used for shelf matting and placing that on my countertop and under my pastry board. I didn’t want the Lazy Susan Hardware to scratch my granite countertop.

Viola! I can roll lefse and rotate my rolling board with ease so I can keep on rolling for years with less work. Thanks, Alice!

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Reduce Food Waste

What to do with potato peels when making lefse dough?

Here is a tasty tip for when you make lefse dough. It’s from St. Paul lefse maker Sasha Aslanian, who admits she is “kind of a maniac about reducing waste.” She found the tip in Scraps, Peels, and Stems: Recipes and Tips for Rethinking Food Waste at Home by Jill Lightner.

Sasha wrote:

You take the potato peels from your lefse potatoes, put them in a little bowl and drizzle with oil (I used peanut oil). Then put them on a baking sheet and pop in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Then flip them/stir them around and bake a few more minutes.

I asked Sasha if she had a photo. “I don’t have a photo of my chips because sadly, I just scarfed them down before I sent you an email,” she wrote. “I don’t buy junk food so it was satisfying to make my own, and find a use for something I was tossing in the compost.”

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A Very Misty Christmas

Boiling potatoes for lefse makes mist on the kitchen window.

I am making lots of lefse right now. Tis the season, right? And one of my most favorite times in the process is when the potatoes are boiling and I get to sit. Sit and think. Sit and remember.

I remember Grandma Legwold, her quiet smile that she passed on to my dad, Conrad Legwold. I suppose I have it. I never saw her make lefse but tasted plenty of it.

The Last Word on Lefse: Heartwarming Stories Cover Image
The Last Word on Lefse: Heartwarming Stories Cover Image

I remember all the old lefse makers who were the stars of my 1992 book, The Last Word on Lefse. The Queen, Ida Sacquitne, who told me about powdered sugar in her lefse recipe. Eunice Stoen, who was the first to tell me she did not cool her dough but rolled it at room temperature, thus saving time. I have come around to doing just that— and love it. John Glesne, who paved the way for me as a man to be a lefse maker in a woman’s lefse world. Merlin Hoiness, the original Mr. Lefse, and Bitten Norvoll, who hated doing dishes and made extra mashed potatoes for dinner so her boys would exchange doing dishes for the fresh lefse Bitten would whip up. And of course, there’s the Boys of Starbuck, a group of old guys who came up with a goofy-then-great idea to create The World’s Largest Lefse that was 9 feet 8 inches in diameter.

"Keep On Rolling!" Cover Image
“Keep On Rolling!” Cover Image

Those are the lefse makers who come to mind just from one lefse book. The lefse maker list could go on and on. I interviewed 52 lefse makers for Keep On Rolling!, my second lefse book published in 2017. I cherish these memories when I listen to classical music and sit and think about them, especially Linda Bengtson, who I dedicated the book to and who passed on this year.

Many of these lefse makers have passed on, and I cry about that. Sure I miss them, but I think of those memories that brought joy, especially those lefse memories. Everybody has a lefse story, and with the writing of my books and All Things Lefse that have spun off from the books, I have heard so many of those stories. And I give thanks for them.

To sit and think and remember gives grief a good name. I feel better as I do this … have a good Christmas cry thinking back over the year and the years.

As I look at the mist that builds on the window from the boiling potatoes, I think of 12-year-old Timothy, a character in my new novel Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse. Timothy tells his girlfriend Amaya, the main character in the novel, that he sees ghosts. She’s shocked but believes Timothy, and she asks where he sees them. He says, “wherever water is … like … light…. You know … when water is floating, like fog or mist or—”

I don’t see ghosts, but I believe Timothy, that ghosts or something like them are where water is light, in fog or in mist or in falling snow. When I look at the falling snow behind the mist on my kitchen window as I boil potatoes, I think of the old lefse makers and part of a poem Amaya says at the funeral of her Papa, who taught her to make lefse:

See how far you’ve come to get where you are

See who was there with you, to lift up your star

And know they’re still with you, just right over here.

Turn around and tune in; they don’t disappear.

My potatoes are done, so it is time to make the lefse dough. But I look at the mist on the window and think of the old lefse makers who are “just right over here” … and I smile.

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The Woes of Wet Lefse Dough

What do you do when your lefse dough is wet? Well …

Lefse makers tend to find a recipe, often from a loved one in the family, and follow it precisely. I’m the same, or I had been until yesterday. I was in a hurry and got a little loose with my measurements. Actually, I’m kinda proud that I thumbed my nose at perfectionism. My perfectionism is an oppressor, demanding I do it perfect (make lefse, sing, write a book, you name it) or else.

Well, this batch of lefse dough was not done perfectly. I had added too much butter and cream, so the dough turned out wet.

What to do?

Wet lefse dough can mean your lefse rounds will be tough. With wet dough, you think you have to use more flour as you roll in order to prevent sticking. More flour equals tough lefse, and tough lefse, of course, is not your goal. I call tough lefse potato jerky.

To salvage such a batch, I do not use more flour. Instead, I use more time and less pressure on the rolling pin.

I form a patty and then gently press the rolling pin onto the patty. I do this repeatedly, rotating the pin and slowly rolling the dough into a wider and wider circle. Gently is the key word. Squishing the patty creates sticking.

When I get the round to a diameter about half as large as I want the final round to be, I turn the round and move it to another spot on my pastry board. That’s one reason I sell a large pastry board, so I can move the round while rolling and not keep grinding on the same spot, which hastens sticking.

So when you make a wet batch of lefse dough, don’t pitch it and don’t use more flour. Just take more time, turn and move your round at the midway point, and go ever so gently on the rolling pin.

These are the rounds that were rolled from the wet batch of lefse dough.
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Bad Weather, Good Lefse

Oh the weather outside is frightful …

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the LEFSE’s so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Modified lyrics from Let It Snow! Let It Snow!Let It Snow! Songwriters: Jule Styne / Sammy Cahn

Lefse is the perfect antidote to the gray November blahs, when snow falls on green leaves, and we hunch over and bow to the lengthening darkness. It can be depressing … until you pull out your lefse grill!

Oh, to stand up to winter and not just sit and take it.

Oh, to boil the potatoes and steam the windows, blotting out whatever’s bad.

Oh, to work the dough and use the hands, quieting a fretting mind.

Oh, to roll and grill, roll and grill, roll and grill — meditation marked with thumping and hissing.

Oh, to watch the pile of lefse grow … soft, unassuming beauty.

Oh, to sit a while with your lefse and tea, savoring the best that’s yet to be.

Oh, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! There is lefse, indeed!

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Lefse: ‘High, Holy Food in My Family’

Ok, I’ll just say it. I’m tooting my own horn here. Not very Norwegian, but what the heck.

This is an email from Lorelei in California, who wrote this note when she ordered two copies of Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse. It made my day, my week, my whatever.

Hi Gary,

Your books are an absolute delight!! I am from Minnesota originally and have been transplanted to California after getting married. Lefse is high holy food in my family. Lutefisk … well that is another story : )

I am not sure how I first stumbled across your books … but I love them. Reading them makes me homesick and happy at the same time. They are food for my soul, especially around the holidays. I love, love, love the stories from The Lefse Trail [in the book Keep On Rolling: Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round]. You have a gift for capturing the essence of the people, the culture of small towns, and the sheer joy/madness of lefse. The various recipes and techniques are very helpful and interesting.

When I saw you wrote a novel, I knew I had to have it. My whole family enjoys your work. Thank you!!!
All the Best,

"Keep On Rolling!" Cover Image
“Keep On Rolling!” Cover Image
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It’ll Be Fun, They Said

So you would like to teach a group of kids to make lefse? Read this first.

“Have the Youth Group make lefse,” they said. “It’ll be fun,”

OK. Why not?

We polled the kids (grades 7-12) at Granville-Norwich Lutheran Parish, where I am Pastor. We asked the kids in this church in Granville, North Dakota, if they’ d be interested in using their next Youth Group time to do the work of making lefse for the annual church lutefisk dinner. A bit to our surprise, it was met with cheers of enthusiasm. Who knew these kids would be so eager to carry on this tradition generally in the purview of those women in the congregation in their 70s and 80s?

With a few tips from those matriarchs of lefse making and with their tried-and-true recipe in our hands, we gathered grills, flipper sticks, pastry boards, cloths and rolling pins along with the little socks that go on them. Another adult advisor and I prepared the dough, and it was cooled and waiting. We were ready for our big night.

On THE DAY, more than 20 kids showed up in the small church basement. They were excited and ready to roll!

Kids showed up at the church basement pumped to make lefse.

Things appeared to be going smoothly, but soon these same youth who just a week earlier had regaled us with tales of their experience making lefse with their grandmas or aunts now confessed they had been mere spectators to lefse making, or they were simply eaters. Some said they were completely unfamiliar with the process of making lefse.

So it began…

It wasn’t long before flour was everywhere. Rounds of lefse were produced that were as thick as the sole of a shoe and as dry as a cracker. Electrical outlets couldn’t hold the plug for the grills. Of course, there were sword fights with precious, keepsake lefse turners. The rolling pins were annoyingly squeaky. Dough was sticking to the rolling pin socks, pastry cloths, and the bottom of shoes; dough made its way into my car.

Adult advisors became crabby, really crabby.

The yield was about 100 rounds of unusable, almost inedible lefse … and lots of laughter, cooperation, and community building.

“Have the Youth Group make lease,” they said. “It’ll be fun.”

They were right.

Having fun and learning to make lefse one round at a time.

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Rolling Thawed Lefse Dough

As an experiment, I rolled three rounds of lefse dough to half the final width and then froze them. How would they roll weeks later when thawed?

A reader suggested I try rolling lefse rounds to half width and then freeze them. That way I can quickly finish rolling a few rounds of lefse when company is expected, and I’ll have fresh lefse without having to make the dough and roll the rounds the entire final width.

I was intrigued, so I rolled three rounds to half width and froze them in a plastic bag, each separated by parchment paper. But when I thawed them weeks later, it took 30 minutes or so for the dough to thaw. It became gooey and stuck to the paper. I salvaged the round by gently scraping off the dough with a paring knife. I could not roll the round in that condition, so I reshaped it and rolled it. The dough was soft and not leathery, as I had feared, and it rolled well, actually. The round turned out beautiful.

Three rounds that had been frozen and thawed and then rolled. All’s well that ends well.

Don’t think I will roll rounds part way and freeze again, but I will experiment next with freezing dough balls so I can unthaw them and roll fresh lefse in short order. Stay tuned.

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Lefse Song on the Big Stage!

Singer William Florian (left) and I in a glow after singing the lefse song “Keep On Rollin'” on the Reykjavik Hall stage at the 2019 Norsk Hostfest.

I was introduced to a packed crowd of about 500 lefse lovers as “Gary Legwood.” I was standing on the stage of Reykjavik Hall at the 2019 Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota, with singer William Florian. He was going to play the guitar and provide harmony on the chorus while I sang “Keep On Rollin'”, the lefse song I co-wrote with Erik Sherburne. The song is part of my second lefse book Keep On Rolling: Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round.

We were the warm-up act for the main event, the event that kicks off the Norsk Hosfest each year: the Celebrity Lefse Masters competition. This involves three teams of singers and comedians who compete when not performing their normal act at the Hostfest. The teams were Daniel O’Donnell and Bjoro Haaland, Williams & Ree, and the Nelson Brothers (sons of rock legend Ricky Nelson).

Daniel O’Donnell grabs the mic to coach his lefse-making partner Bjoro Haaland (in cowboy hat), while Terry Ree rips what he deems to be a shoddy lefse round rolled by Haaland.

The crowd comes for the laughs. The rolling tables are on the stage so the audience cannot see the rounds that are shaped like Ireland, as O’Donnell said, or the rounds that get burned. The rolling and the rolling in the aisles go on for about 20 minutes before each team submits its best rounds to the judges. I was one of five judges who chose the Nelson Brothers as the winner for the second year on a row.

When celebrity singers roll lefse in competition each year at the Norsk Hostfest, it draws a crowd in search of some laughs and one — just one — good round of lefse rolled by the celebs.

But back to being part of being the warm-up act for the Celebrity Lefse Masters. I was to sing “Keep On Rollin”, and then William Florian was to sing the lefse classic “Just a Little Lefse” by Stan Boreson. As I said, I was introduced as “Gary Legwood,” and I decided not to let that pass. My thought was if I was going to die up here on the Reykjavik Hall stage, I at least wanted to be wearing the right toe tag.

So I corrected the emcee, and introduced the song, saying I wanted to write lyrics for a song that honors the “noble resiliency” of the old-time lefse makers in their 80s and 90s who just keep on rolling no matter what. I kept my intro short, and then launched into the song.

William and I had gone through the song a couple of times that morning, and he wisely recommended trimming out the intro and the bridge, which I did. My anxiety was sky high and my voice was tired from talking about my books and lefse products all day at my table in the Author’s Corner. But William was wonderful in calming me down and focusing on having fun, which I did.

The video was taken with my phone by a friend standing in the wings. Check it out and leave a comment. How’d I do?

My big finish singing “Keep On Rollin'” while William Florian strums along on the guitar. The video is kinda bad (a last minute thing) but the song is pretty dang good.
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My First Bridal Shower/Lefse Class

Members of my first bridal shower/lefse class were L to R Leslie Pearson, Lulu Conner, Katy Best Conner (standing and then the bride to be), June Pearson, Acey Hofflander, and Cynthia Conner.

It was a the first Friday of this month, and Cynthia Conner and Lulu Conner arrived at my house 15 minutes early for the private lefse class. They brought wine and cheese with creative and delicious snacks. It’s not unusual for people to bring these treats for the class. It adds to the fun evening of learning to make lefse. But they also brought gifts in really fancy wrapping and bags—wedding shower gifts to be opened after the class. That was a first.

I didn’t know what to expect, actually. It was the end of a workweek and folks were tired from that, plus the wedding was only a week away. Would they all be too distracted to enjoy learning to make lefse?

Uh, no. We had a ball, and the class lingered into the evening long after the last round was rolled. Lefse has a way of adding to any occasion. Not sure if the lefse survived the week and made it into the wedding food offering, but I thanked the group for including lefse in such a big moment for the family. Tradition!

The best dressed person to ever take my lefse class was June Pearson. Classy lady, eh?