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!
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.
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!