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, Lorelei
“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!
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.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
Congratulations to Chris and Chuck Ihlen from Pipestone, Minnesota, for winning the 2019 National Lefse Cook-off at the recent Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota!
The contestants roll for one hour and submit their best round to judges in a separate room. I judged two years ago, and it was an honor. But it was also hard to do because all the lefse submitted was great!
As I watched this year’s batch of contestants, a tool that I had never seen before for lefse making caught my eye: a grease-splatter screen. Chuck used it after rolling each round. He admitted he cannot roll round lefse, so he cuts the round with a pizza cutter moving around the grease-splatter screen. Not for everybody but a very cool idea! I love that kind of innovation!
When I teach lefse classes, students pick up the techniques quickly and leave smiling. Still, the biggest problem that I fix continually through the class is sticking. The student rolls out a beauty of round only to rip it when picking it up because the center (typically) of the round sticks. Bummer!
You can save a stuck lefse by using my Blue Pastry Board Cover. The blue lets you see sticky spots better and earlier so you can keep those spots floured. Yet even with the blue cover, you will have sticking from time to time. Here’s what you do:
Make it a habit to check for possible sticking before picking up the round with your turning stick. If you just assume no sticking and pick up the round, you may rip a masterpiece.
If you have sticking, slide your turning stick under the lefse so that it’s tilted at angle, and then slowly “saw” your way through the area that’s sticking.
To fix the sticky spot, scrape it with a knife and work flour into the area so that you don’t have sticking there again.
Pity the poor potato. It’s packed with flavor and nutrition,
and yet typically people display pathetically little potato appreciation. They
deem it to be lowly and grubby, and they disparage the dirty little tuber,
using phrases like “small potatoes” and “couch potato.” The spud doesn’t see
the light of day until it’s yanked from the muck, sliced, fried, mashed, riced,
rolled, or whipped—and then greedily gobbled up.
Thankfully, there are people in our midst who find the
potato to be most appealing. A. A. Milne, who wrote books about the thoughtful
and steadfast Winnie-the-Pooh, praised the potato right proper when he wrote, “What
I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort
Pardon the promotional potato preamble (I lose perspective regarding potatoes), but it helps explain why I go to Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota, at the end of each August.
Lefse lovers are pretty decent folks who applaud the pomme de terre, holding it high because it is the fundamental ingredient in the most fantastic food this side of heaven. When it’s lefse time, it’s tater time—and it’s tater time all the time during one potato-packed weekend in this northern Minnesota town (pop. 2,570 in 2013). Barnesville’s annual Potato Days Festival in late August pulls in around 20,000 spud lovers who participate in events that embrace all things potato—including the National Lefse Cook-off, which I describe in Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get Around.
With good food, kooky contests, silly stuff you have to see to believe, and a gripping lefse competition, Barnesville’s food festival is a must stop on the Lefse Trail. Please stop by my exhibit on Front Street, where I will sell my books and all things lefse and lutefisk.
Last March, I fretted about freezing lefse. That even after all these years of making lefse and teaching lefse making, I was not confident about freezing my rounds. I asked for help from my readers, and received it, of course. Lefse makers got each other’s backs, right?
Bonnie Sellner said: “I fold the lefse in half and then again in half and have a triangle. I stack three of these. Then, wrap in Press n Seal. Then freeze. These packages are easy then to just take out of freezer as needed. These are so easy for mailing out to my relatives.”
And Connie Bowers wrote: “I have kept lefse frozen for one year and it was still edible.”
I have found freezer bags from Target that are large enough so folding is not necessary. This eliminates cracking along the fold lines. I also make sure the lefse has plenty of time to cool and dry—but not dry out—before putting parchment paper between the rounds in the freezer bag so the lefse doesn’t stick together.
So after all my fretting, I froze lefse last March and then forgot about it. Until today, nearly half a year later. Is the lefse “edible?”
I dig around in my overpacked chest freezer, curious to see if the lefse is still in a flat position or is buried under a big chunk of boneless sirloin steak or a pile of mint chocolate chip Klondike bars my grandkids go to when they come to visit. Amazingly, the lefse is flat!
I remove one piece along with the parchment paper that covers it. I check both sides of the lefse. One side looks fine, but for some reason the other side looks emaciated, like it has freezer burn! “Poor lefse,” I think, “what have I done to you?”
I let it thaw in a plastic bag so it doesn’t dry, and I wonder if I would serve this to another lefse lover.
Thawing is surprisingly fast. Within minutes, the lefse is soft, and the supposed freezer burn has disappeared. It looks and feels like real lefse!
I pop the lefse in the microwave for seven seconds, which softens the lefse a bit more. I spread butter and cinnamon and sugar, and I am ready for the taste test.
The lefse is more than edible; it’s very good! Taste and texture are excellent!
The truth about freezing lefse is my perfectionism is peeking through. I make wonderful lefse, like many of my readers, that brings oohs and aahs when served fresh. So I have to accept that frozen lefse—and there are many ways to freeze it—cannot be the same as fresh lefse. Fresh is fresh. I try to serve fresh lefse whenever I can, but there are times when I can’t. So I can let go of my perfectionism (yet again) and be proud to serve frozen.
All the writing and editing for my new novel are done, and Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse is in the final stages of production. My designer, Jenny Mahoney, is laying out the pages and incorporating the 20 color illustrations by Heather Bassler Zemien. Exciting!
I call Final Rounds a lefse novel. Let me explain. It is a novel about grief for people 12 and over. Certainly, there is sadness with loss, and the novel brings tears throughout. But the bulk of the book is a set of sweet and funny and moving recollections by Amaya, a 12-year-old whose grandfather, Papa, has passed away the day the book opens.
One of Amaya’s memories is of a snowbound night of making 630 rounds of lefse. In this night, Papa explains to Amaya his rather goofy Eight Rules of Life, which includes a rule on how to handle failure in general and in particular in learning to make lefse. Here is part of the rule and part of the conversation that follows. By the way, the rules are presented in verse and the conversation is also in verse—part of the creative fun in writing fiction!
First, Papa expounds on failure in general:
mean you will not succeed?
Failure, my girl,
may be just what you need…
Failure may mean
that something is lacking.
behind a façade that is cracking?
Failure is often
’tween you and your dream.
and flaws are not what they seem.
invite: Develop. Be humble.
Strengthen your weakness so you will not stumble.
And then Amaya responds with a question about wanting to learn to make lefse but fearing she will make bad lefse, which is a common concern for beginners. So Papa gives a a lesson, passing on the tradition of lefse making.
said I, “may I ask this of you?
want to roll lefse, so what shall I do?”
stopped rolling lefse and stared at me so.
my granddaughter, this skill you should know.
am I thinking? You should roll; it’s
steady, you’re ready—you’ve entered your prime.”
gave me his pin, wood smoothed by his love.
I nervous and tense, apprehensive? Sort of.
dough in your hands and please make a patty.
edges have cracks? Your round will be ratty.
my dear, don’t bang and don’t squish.
“Let the pin work—if not, you’ll have ish.
round and stay round, check always the shape.
at the edges; roll thin as a crepe.
them well, your board and your pin,
flour will stop your round from stickin’.
your round once when rolling’s half done,
finish the rolling—that’s it, have some fun!”
smiled and I tried, and I tried once again.
one round was shaped like Lake Michigan!
next was Kentucky, and the next round like Maine.
New Mexico—no two were the same!
Papa just smiled and said, “It’s OK.
rolling, Amaya, and do not dismay.
This is one of the many tender moments in Final Rounds. I will keep you updated, and you will be the first to know when the book is published in August.