My family is extremely Norweigian. Not necessarily in the tradition sense—though we are extremely fond of saying uff da, but in the food sense. I’ve never tried it, but my grandparents love lutefisk. We keep pickled herring in the fridge for Christmas. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though trying it once was enough for me.
Lefse, on the other hand, is a beloved favorite. It’s a thin, crepe-like potato pancake we smear with butter and sprinkle with sugar. The dough is sweet and delicate, and practically melts in your mouth.
The problem is that nearly every Swedish bakery in our area has closed up, and lefse is a laborious task. You have to rice potatoes (essentially putting them through a special press that turns them into thin grains), mix in flour, sugar, salt, butter, and cream, and turn that into a dough. Once it’s cool, it needs to be rolled out with a special grooved pin to 1/8th of an inch or less, then tossed onto a 400-degree griddle with a special stick. Cook it too long and it gets bitter, not enough and it’s still doughy.
I know all this because I spent some eight hours making it this weekend. And I do mean painstaking—my shoulders are still aching from all the rolling, my hands are burned from bumping the griddle.
But it was worth it. Not because it tasted good, but because I now appreciate how much work goes into it. Because I’ve started a new tradition where I make it for my family, especially since this first time it was a surprise.
And also because it tasted good. There are more burned spots and not-quite-cooked areas on my lefse, but it’s still delicious.
Anyway, here’s a drabble.
(a.) from Latin abs—”from”—and temetum—”strong drink”
Moderation, particularly in food and drink.
A body needs food. But a body does not need flavor or texture, nothing more than nutrients to power the heart and lungs and brain. So she eats flavorless wheatcakes and boiled root vegetables, leaving the herbs and salts for others.
It isn’t for austerity. There’s nothing chaste about how she weans her tongue of expectation. When she dips a finger into a jar of honey after months of tasteless gruel, there is nothing pure about how it drips down her finger, nothing virginal about the way the flavor explodes on her tongue, so sweet it makes her knees shake.