Lefse lovers are potato lovers, and potato lovers are going to dig this: I doubled my yield this year!
The full story, however, is a bit disappointing. Last year, I planted three potatoes and got one bowl of russets. This year I planted five blue potatoes and five russets, and the yield was two bowls. The math is not good. The blue potato harvest made me blue. The potatoes were colorful little pebbles, and some of the bigger ones were the size of cherry tomatoes.
Now the russets were a different story. It was thrilling to spy a “lunker” swimming around as I turned the black dirt, and there were several of them that saved the day and made up most of the weight in my nine-pound crop.
I had tried planting in the ground and then adding dirt above to build tiers of growing soil as the plant grew. Didn’t work too well, with just one russet producing tiers of potatoes. I will try this building up method next year, but I won’t go up as high as I did this year. And I will plant potatoes closer together.
Oh, well. Live and learn. Just as lefse got me into the Norwegian culture, potatoes are getting me into gardening. And that’s good.
One thing the pandemic has done is increase my appreciation for the things I have, including my health and family—and my customers. I am glad you are there year after year supporting my books and all things lefse and lutefisk.
Therefore, I offer any one of my five books free! This is good for one of my books for today only (Wednesday July 15, 2020), so hop on this one-day deal by emailing me at email@example.com.
You can link to descriptions of my books to help you decide which one book you want to get free, but don’t order online. If you do, you will be charged, which means the free offer won’t be free. Again, to take advantage of the free offer for one of my five books, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Today only.
Concerned about a shipping charge? Not to worry. Free is free, and you won’t be charged for shipping. But that is only if you email me at email@example.com and specify which of my five books you want free. Wednesday only!
In normal times, I interact with countless lefse and lutefisk customers at festivals, markets, and book signings as well as during my lefse classes. We cover the waterfront about such things as modifying your old lefse grill to be able to fit the newer probe control models (see photo). But these discussions are not happening with the pandemic, and I miss talking shop with my lefse and lutefisk chums.
Therefore, I am opening the Lefse & Lutefisk Mailbox.
If you have a question, tip, or idea about equipment or ingredients or techniques for preparing and serving lefse and lutefisk, let’s talk. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org … PLEASE!
How do I set prices of my rolling pins and the other lefse products?
I should explain first that I am proud to work editors, illustrators, photographers, and designers on my books, and I pay what they ask because I know them and trust that they are quoting a figure that is fair to both of us.
Again, I pay providers what they want. Too often, creators of art and fine products are underpaid and are forced to “settle” on a payment they are not happy with. Not with me. I pay their fair price and then add on a dollar amount that feeds my business. The sum is the price of the product.
Typically, the retail price is split 50-50. That is, the provider of the product and the seller each get half of the retail price upon sale. With me, it’s a 65-35 split with the provider getting the 65%.
I could charge more to be in line with standard practice in the marketplace, but customers would then have to pay more—or they may not pay at all. Or I could lower prices by driving a hard bargain with providers, and driving them away. I don’t like either of these options, so I go with a 65-35 split. It pays to be unique in the marketplace, especially when I can be fair to provides and customers alike.
Well, I finally joined the Sons of Norway. I have spoken at many lodges and say in my speech that the Sons of Norway and I share the same mission: preserving traditions. The Sons of Norway lodges all over North American hold meetings and create entertainment and educational events throughout the year to keep the culture of Norway, and I write books to keep lefse making alive and well … and to keep those who eat lutefisk alive and well!
So it was a no-brainer that I finally became a member. I joined the Synnove-Nordkap lodge in St. Paul because I know a few members in that lodge and have been impressed by the lodge’s vitality. I enjoyed my first meeting at the annual summer picnic last month.
When I arrived at the picnic, I did some standing around with my hands in my pockets, feeling awkward and like the newcomer that I was. And then Lowell Johnson (pictured above) introduced himself. He’s a funny guy who is easy to talk with, so the time passed quickly and the evening was fun. Nothing like that personal connection and the power of simply saying, “Hello!” I’ll be back and am glad I now support an organization that has meant a great deal to so many who love the Norwegian ways.
Oh, Lowell reminded me that he had submitted two jokes to my newsletter, The Lefse & Lutefisk News. Here they are:
What did Ole say the first time he saw pizza? “Uff da! Who ‘trew up on the lefse?”
Lars was having trouble getting rid of the skunks under his porch. Ole told him to put some lutefisk under there. Well, the skunks are gone, but now Lars can’t get rid of the Knutsons!
The release of Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse is only a month away! I cannot take orders yet, but today I sent the final page proofs to the printer.
Final Rounds is a simple novel about a complex character, 12-year-old Amaya, who handles the loss of Papa, her grandfather, by 1) pulling off an end-of-life celebration for Papa never heard of before in Amaya’s small town and 2) by writing—which she hates. Amaya writes about her memories of Papa and makes writing less loathsome—even enjoyable—by writing part of her story in verse.
Below is a peaceful scene involving Papa, Amaya, and Mrs. Taylor, Papa’s neighbor and a high school English teacher who helps Papa and Amaya make 630 rounds of lefse for a Christmas lefse giveaway in New Seljord, their small town in Minnesota. The blizzard and the lefse-making marathon have ended, and the three exhausted-but-grateful lefse makers are reflecting on life and the wonder of the sun emerging as the snow ends. Lefse has inspired all three of them to make up verse throughout the day, and now Amaya and then Mrs. Taylor each add one more verse. Mrs. Taylor, who grew up in Mississippi and has a different appreciation of snow than most folks from the North, has probably the best line in the book with her verse.
Papa closed the barn door. The late afternoon was now tinted with a dreamy, peachy light. It was still snowing, but the sun was pressing its way through the clouds from the west. Reds and oranges and yellows and pinks were everywhere. Even floating snowflakes carried flecks of paint. Mrs. T and I were gaping, and Papa stopped walking to the house and turned to look at us. Then he also looked at the sunset. None of us spoke until a rhyme came over me.
The sun . . . so fun; the snow’s the show. Please let it last. . . . Don’t let it go.
Mrs. T and Papa smiled and nodded but did not speak.
The sun did not last, but we stood and stood and stood. The sun lowered, and the colors slowly dulled on the final few snowflakes.
“Mrs. Taylor,” said Papa, still looking at the sun, which was just on the roof of her house down the hill, “for a Mississippi girl, you must have had your fill of Old Man Winter.”
She smiled but never took her eyes off the horizon. Finally, she said in a sweet, low voice:
Rain has its rhythm, its charm, and its sound. Its route is just straight, from the sky to the ground. But a raindrop may wonder: Where is the romance? Then winter gives water a chance to dance.
Final Rounds has much more of this kind of verse to complement a heart-rending story that, like grief, is sad and sweet. I won’t see the pages of the book again until it is actually a bound book—mid-August! Very exciting time!
For Father’s Day, many in Lefse Land will be traveling to celebrate the day with dear old dad. I pass along this travel tip from Sharon, my “Texas friend,” as she likes to call herself. I see plenty of this kind of Scandinavian humor, and some of it is actually funny … in spots. Like this announcement:
WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE LUTRAN AIR IS NOW OPERATING IN MINNYSOTA! ALSO SERVING VISCONSIN, NORDERN MITCHIGEN, AND NORT & SOUT DAKOTA.
If you are travelin soon, consider Lutran Air, the no-frills airline. You’re all in da same boat on Lutran Air, where flyin is a upliftin experience:
Dair is no first class on any Lutran Air flight.
Meals are potluck. Rows 1 tru 6, bring rolls; 7 tru 15, bring a salad; 16 tru 21, a hot dish; and 22-30, a dessert.
Basses and tenors, please sit in da rear of da aircraft.
Everyone is responsible for his or her own baggage.
All fares are by free-will offering, and da plane will not land til da budget is met.
Pay attention to your flight attendant, who vill acquaint you wit da safety system aboard dis Lutran Air:
“Okay den, listen up! I’m only gonna say dis vonce: In da event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, I am frankly gonna be real surprised and so vill Captain Olson, because ve fly right around two tousand feet. So loss of cabin pressure would probably mean da Second Coming or someting of dat nature, and I wouldn’t bodder with doze liddle masks on da rubber tubes. You’re gonna have bigger tings to worry about den dat. Just stuff doze back up in dair liddle holes.
“Probably da masks fell out because of turbulence which, to be honest wit you, we’re gonna have quite a bit of at two tousand feet. Sorta like driving across a plowed field, but after a while you get used to it. In da event of a water landing, I’d say forget it. Start saying da Lord’s Prayer and just hope you get to da part about forgive us our sins as we forgive dose who sin against us, which some people say ‘trespass against us,’ which isn’t right! But what can you do?
“Da use of cell phones on da plane is strictly forbidden, not because day may confuse da plane’s navigation system, which is by da seat of da pants all da way. No, it’s because cell phones are a pain in da wazoo, and if God had meant you to use a cell phone, God wudda put your mout on da side of your head!
“We start lunch right about noon, and it’s buffet style wit da coffeepot up front. Den we’ll have da hymn sing. Hymnals are in da seat pockets in front of you. Don’t take yours wit you when you go, or I am gonna be real upset—and I am NOT kiddin!
Right now I’ll say Grace: Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let deze gifts to us be blessed. Fader, Son, and Holy Ghost, may we land in Dulut or pretty close.
Tomorrow, it’s off Minot, North Dakota, for the 40th annual Norsk Hostfest. I’ll be toting my four books, my Keep On Rolling!-related products, and great expectations in the eight-hour drive from Minneapolis to Minot. This is the largest Scandinavian festival in the U.S., attracting 55,000 to 60,000 people to the North Dakota State Fairgrounds, where the Hostfest takes place.
I remember my first Hostfest in 1993. I had one book to sell then, The Last Word on Lefse. On opening day of the festival, I stacked copies of the book on my eight-foot table in what is now called the Author’s Corner, and I waited. It was morning, and shoppers were excitedly checking out books and products but not buying much. I made a few sales but decided to take a break and leave the table to get coffee.
I returned 20 minutes later to a clutch of shoppers waiting by my table—for me to sign books! I did, and then more buyers came, and more, and more. All day there were lively conversations about lefse and the new book—and steady sales. That continued for the final three days of the festival, and I left the Hostfest exhausted but elated!
The Author’s Corner now has a small stage, and authors are interviewed there throughout the day. My time is 4 p.m. each day. I’ll talk about my new book, Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round, and then end my time by singing the song I co-wrote with Erik Sherburne, “Keep On Rollin’”. This will be the first time I sing my song, so if you go to the Hostfest, stop by and let me know what you think!