Friday, November 21, 2014

The Early Signs of the Holidays

I think everyone has some sort of evocative sensory experience that they associate with the holidays.  I have many of these and not just for the holidays but all year.  But ESPECIALLY for the holidays.  I am a sensory kind of lady!  They include the standards of the smell of Thanksgiving dinner and delicious cookies baking and of pine tree even though my family had a fake tree for most of my youth and now we have one in my own house.  They also include the more obscure, such as the smell of a bonfire as my dad burns all the wrapping paper on Christmas afternoon at the farm and the smells of grills and cinnamon (gross) liquor at tailgating because the last several years football playoff games have taken over the month of December. 
Another sensory experience that I associate with the kickoff of the holiday season, a regular mid-November get together that often happens in conjunction with deer hunting, is the smell of huge pots filled with thirty pounds of potatoes boiling on the burners, which will later be rolled flat and grilled at 450 degrees.  If you are from where I am from you guessed it...lefse! 
Lefse is a standard old fashioned Norwegian food that, after spending a few months in Norway, I learned is not really standard for modern Norwegians anymore.  At least not the way we eat it.  You could buy hot dogs at street vendors with a piece of lefse wrapped around the which was pretty weird but good.  But for Norwegian Americans far removed from the old days a Thanksgiving and Christmas without it just wouldn't be the same. 
My grandma on my mom's side came from a family of 14 kids, nine of which were girls.  When I was a child these ladies (most of them) would get together every fall and have a day of lefse making.  They sometimes even used a church kitchen for maximum space.  As I was older and in college, my grandma and one of my great aunts would come to our house and have a smaller scale operation.  When my grandpa was living even he would help.  I can still picture him sitting at the corner of the kitchen table at the grill with his turning stick.  I can't remember a time when I didn't witness lefse being made though.  Even when my family lived far away from my grandparents and the heavy concentration of Norwegians in ND and MN my mom still prepared some for us to eat at our small holiday celebrations (my dad's engineering job sometimes required him being on call) and we helped even as little kids in preschool.  I was practically born operating a rolling pin! watch me now you would never guess...
Last Saturday, on Tessa's birthday, my grandma came over and we (and by we I mean not me) set up the necessary equipment and got to work. 

What you see here is the layers of cloths and towels used to keep the lefse warm while waiting to be stored.  It needs to cool slowly so it stays soft.  You can't see it but there is a layer of plastic in there too .

Here is my grandma, preparing a batch of potato mix.  That container by the window is flour, which is important for the potatoes and also to prevent sticking while rolling.  Apparently the kind of flour matters and it is important to use good quality flour like the ND Mill flour and not any crap like Great Value flour from Walmart.  It's a good thing I didn't prepare any of these potatoes because that is exactly what is in my cupboard right now!  I also have Walmart brand sugar.  Please don't tell any of my sugar beet growing friends!  I think that is a sign that I am not ready to take on any major holiday food preparation tasks.
Hmmmm...Properly chilled lefse potato mix...
Time to get the aprons on!

My mom made that apron for each of my grandmas back in the early 80s to tell them they were going to be grandmas!  Now she's the grandma! 

I wore the evil eyed MN Loon apron. 
Here is a lovely example of a nicely rolled out piece of lefse.  It is almost perfectly round. 

Such lovely work could only have been done by one person named my grandma. I actually didn't roll any myself.  I was a grill tender and a mostly good one.  I burned a few pieces.  Which, by the way, are kind of delicious in my opinion.  I enjoy most charred potatoes though, from overly cooked French fries to crusty scalloped potatoes scraped from the edge of the dish to dried out potato skins.

Tessa had her first piece of lefse.  I think she liked it. 

We also learned some shocking news on this day.  My brother...doesn'  Apparently he never has.  He's 27 years old.  It's like I don't even know him anymore.  It's kind of like when I found out my sister doesn't like ketchup in 2010.  Who doesn't like ketchup? 
When the potatoes were all rolled there were approximately 200 circles. 
That's not all of them either!

Mmmmmm...bland, plain lefse just waiting for some sugar! 

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