It’s during the holiday season that we come to truly appreciate, and rely on, family traditions. One I’ve become very close to since we’ve been back in Wisconsin is “lefse day”. It’s that Tuesday in early November when I get together with my sister-in-law, Sue, and we spend the day making lefse. For you unfortunates not familiar with this treat, lefse is a traditional Norwegian flatbread made from potatoes, flour, sugar, salt, and butter. It’s my job to roll puck-sized pieces of dough into rounds so thin you can just start to see through them, then Sue cooks them on a special griddle. And they are delicious! Doesn’t matter if you like them with butter, butter and sugar, jam, or cream cheese; they are a treat. Eaten mostly around the holidays, we freeze them to enjoy year round.
For my annual batch I use 10lbs of potatoes, all of which have to be peeled, boiled, and then riced, the night before. From this we will make about 5 and a half loaves, and get a dozen lefse per full loaf. That’s 60+ pieces of lefse and will take us about an hour per loaf to roll and cook.
What makes this a wonderful tradition and not just a chore is the social side of lefse-making. Sue arrives about 9:30 and after the loaves are formed and put into the refrigerator to set, we will have at least an hour of visiting over coffee and fresh baked goods. We remember past years by revisiting the journal we keep with the recipe: date, sunny vs cloudy, air temperature, snow or no snow, who stopped by, how many loaves we made and how many pieces we ended up with, any special event. Then we start the journal entry for that year.
But come afternoon the party really begins. While we roll/cook friends and relatives drop by (women, of course) and the wine and snacks come out with more visiting, more laughing, more gossip. And a little game we might call “What is that shape?” when my roll-out doesn’t turn out very round. The more wine, the better the guess and the harder we laugh. By the time we finish up and the ladies are leaving, our husbands show up and it’s time to rest our tired feet over a dinner of hot soup and fresh lefse.
Women have a tradition of getting together to make their more arduous or monotonous chores a pleasure. There were quilting bees, for one, and the process of preserving food for the winter table. As families we worked together to plant and harvest. There’s no better example than a good old-fashioned barn raising. It’s why we bring food to those who are sick or grieving. We know they would do the same for us, will do the same for us, when needed.
Family traditions, they remind us we are loved and appreciated, that we are not alone.