Food TraditionsIn the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a little memory of it.

Lefse.

My Mom is Norwegian. My grandfather was actually born in Norway, and my grandmother wasn’t too far removed from her Norwegian roots. Needless to say, Norwegian food traditions have been a part of my family gatherings since my birth and before.

So, let me explain a little bit about this strange stuff called Lefse.

Lefse is essentially a really flat potato pancake. You have to have a special iron and a special spatula-type thing that allows you to turn the individual lefse pieces. Very much like pancakes, only much much thinner. Once cooked, it can be refrigerated, frozen, and just generally abused and all you have to do is re-heat it a little, and voila! Good as fresh. You add butter to it, sugar, jams….whatever you’d like.

Lefse is good. It’s also a total mess to make. Picture flour all over your kitchen, and be sure to dedicate an entire day. You may also want to invest in extra flour. It’s a labor of love – like most food from the “old world” is.

Lutefisk.

Lutefisk is what I like to call “Famine Food.” Famine Food is stuff borne out of being extremely hungry and you think “What have I got to lose?”

Let’s listen in on a conversation between Ole & Sven.

Ole: Sven! I caught a cod!
Sven: Great! But…it has to last us. Who knows when we’ll catch another one?
Ole: Well, let’s see what we can use to keep it so it won’t go bad.
Sven: Hey! There’s some lye. I bet that will work.
Ole: Good thinkin’ Sven!

And thus Lutefisk was born. It’s cod soaked in lye. Or, as SubBro calls it “fish Jell-o.”

Let’s listen in on Sven & Ole again, after completing their yummy new creation:

Sven: Hmm.
Ole: Yeah.
Sven: I’ll try it if you try it.
Ole: Deal.

It’s stinky stuff. My Aunt & grandma were the only ones who ate it, so it was confined to their corner of the table.

It’s worth it to keep these recipes and traditions alive, especially when food has become increasingly Westernized and homogenized. Variety is good. Tradition is good. Learning the “old world” ways helps to keep our histories, and our futures, alive. Plus, you get to do all those wonderful yummies in a modern kitchen.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving…..take a moment to look behind you and at all the wonderful things – and maybe a few of the not so wonderful things, like lutefisk, – that give you your memories, context, and a slightly larger waistline. There is much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving. Eat all the white food you can manage.

 

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