Our lefse makers are a motley self-taught crew. We are scrappy yet orderly, taking on tasks as needed and learning new skills each year. We mostly agree that early morning sparkling wine tastes best without the addition of orange juice, and we've come to the conclusion that it is important to save lefse pizza for after all of the dough has been balled, rolled, and flipped. Our lefse making is a labor of love, trial and error, and above all community.
This year I was especially excited for the event as my mother-in-law gifted me with the most beautiful lefse roller I've ever seen. It belonged to her great grandmother one hundred years ago, and is hand carved out of a single fat piece of wood. It is about twice the size of a regular roller, but happily the sleeve I bought stretched across it.
This year we were also graced with the presence of a real life lefse expert. K's mom came ready to roll delicate lacy rounds, and we were eager for her assistance. I handed her a ball of potato dough and she immediately asked when the flour had been added to the potato mixture. "Last night," I answered. "It's been chilling for more than twelve hours."
K's mom tsked tsked her disapproval. "You must not add the flour until you are ready to roll the balls." She held a limp wet dough ball in her hand and looked sad. "Well, I'll do my best." As she rolled the ball into a thin round she pointed to the bulging potato pieces that didn't blend into the dough. "What's this?" she asked, almost accusatory.
"Um... potato?" I offered. As way of explanation I added that my good potato ricer is missing and I was forced to use my old plastic model, which doesn't do a great job of dicing a cooked potato into silky threads. Things were getting embarrassing and I understood why smart Norwegians probably don't often allow Swedes to take on any critical roles in the lefse kitchen.
K's mom taught us lots of little lessons as the day progressed. When the twin griddles blew a fuse, K's mom rolled the lefse around her rolling pin and stood patiently, explaining that leaving a piece of lefse on the cloth guaranteed it would stick once it was time to move it to a hot griddle. We watched as she used her rolling pin to transfer flatbreads to the griddle, only using a stick to carry cooked lefse from griddle to stack.
(Necessity and ingenuity brought K's dad to create their family's lefse stick from an old wooden blind many years ago. He passed away this summer, and I couldn't help but feel his presence in the kitchen as well.)
The grand thing about having a lefse expert with us was that I finally learned a thing or two about making the dough. Self-taught griddlers will never become GOOD griddlers and embarrassment be damned, I am intent on learning the art of lefse. (Our youngest lefse makers are two years old this year. They invited Rosie O'Donnell - the doll not the person - to join us but honestly she wasn't much help. She did, however, eat more than her fair share of lefse pizza.)
In the end our lefse was beautiful. The stack of flatbread rose and we congratulated ourselves for making a fine product out of a less-than-perfect dough thanks in part to the presence of T's family roller, K's lefse making mom, and the wooden blind stick that K's dad made many years ago.