Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

The lefse stand

Note: The lefse stand attracted some notice. Read the news article here.

 

“Let’s do that lefse stand tomorrow before the summer runs out,” I announced to the girls. They had concocted the plan months earlier and were waiting for the green light. 

“Yes!”

Excited about the Norwegian treat and its advertising, they whipped up flyers within an hour and delivered them all around the neighborhood.

Then I was curious. How many Scandinavians lived in north Minneapolis? 49.7% of the population was African American, 24.5% was White, 13.8% was Asian, 1.6% was American Indian, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander comprised 0.1%, two or more races made up 6.0%, and 4.3% was classified as “Other”.* While north Minneapolis was home to Olsen Fish Company, the world’s largest lutefisk processor, how many people on the Northside had ever eaten lefse, the beloved Norwegian potato flatbread? And when we sold it the next day, how many of our neighbors would taste it for the first time?

We posted the details of the girls’ lefse stand on two of the north Minneapolis Facebook pages, Husband promising the masses love and joy sprinkled in sugar and rolled up in the potato-y confection. But after hitting the “post” button, worry needled me.

“Now it’s done. We’ve put it out there.” I nibbled my lower lip. “What if a hundred people come? How many lefse should we make?”

“Double the recipe,” said Husband. “And when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

 

The night before the lefse stand, the girls peeled ten pounds of potatoes. After boiling them, I pressed them through a ricer, and then mixed in the butter, cream, sugar, and salt. The dough chilled overnight, and in the morning, I mixed in the flour. I heated the griddle to 500 degrees, divided the dough into 115 pieces, and Flicka began rolling out each piece with a rolling pin.

Out in the sunshine, the girls set up the card table on the sidewalk in front of the house and displayed their sign:

Lefse

50¢ if you’ve had lefse before

25¢ if you’ve never had lefse

At noon on August 4, 2015, the lefse stand opened for business. The girls’ first customers walked over from across the street. They purchased two, but came back later and bought fourteen more to share with their family. Next came a man who told us he had received a phone call from someone in northern Minnesota who informed him there was a lefse stand in his neighborhood. He had driven his motorized wheelchair seven blocks to our place to buy a dozen. After that, a woman drove up, snapped a picture of our place (for her friend who had lived in our house for twenty-four years), and bought some lefse too. Later, five neighborhood boys sauntered by, and we convinced them to try the treats for free. We got five thumbs up before they went on their way.

Fresh lefse beckoned people from the surrounding blocks, and the comfort food lured suburban fans into the city. Three women—a daughter, a mother, and an aunt—bought six lefse. They tasted their purchases as they drove away, and from an open car window, one of the women called out, “Oh, this brought the tears! It’s as good as Grandma’s!”

Inside the house, Flicka—lefse stick in hand—manned the griddle all afternoon. Outside, Ricka and Dicka tended the customers, offering them the fresh Norwegian pastry with a choice of toppings: butter, sugar, brown sugar, or a cinnamon and sugar mix.

Around three o’clock, as I carried another stack of warm lefse outside to replenish the tray, Dicka scurried to me.

“That man’s from Channel 11.” She tucked her whisper behind one hand, her eyes wide.

My eyes widened to match hers. “Really?”

She nodded. "When he first told us, I laughed. I thought he was kidding." A grin wrapped her face.

I brushed the flour from my apron and strode toward the man. “You’re from KARE 11?”

He secured his camera to a tripod. “That’s right. I’m Bob.”

“How did you hear about us?”

He said the name of the woman who had called in the tip.

“Hm. I don’t know her.” I shook my head and smiled. “Wow, this is crazy.”

Bob asked Dicka if she would prepare a lefse for the camera. He began filming, and she swiped soft butter across the warm flatbread, dusted it with sugar, and rolled it up. He clipped a mic on her and then asked her what lefse was, what ingredients went into it, how it was cooked, and about the inspiration for the stand.  

“Last question.” Bob nodded toward the table of toppings. “How do you eat it?”

Dicka picked up the lefse she had prepared and held the roll to her lips like a shofar. “Like this.”

 

That evening at ten o’clock, after the flour was swept away, we huddled together with the same eagerness we brought to family movie night, and we all watched the local news. Bob’s thirty minutes of filming the lefse stand was boiled down to a forty-second segment. But that short blip was as sweet as the lefse—and the look on Dicka’s face as she watched it.

 

*Statistics from the Decennial Census and American Community Survey estimates and 2014 Northside Funders Group report. Read it here.

 

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

 

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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