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Published October 02, 2012, 11:35 PM

Halgrimson: Sons of Norway brings memories of my youth

As I walked from the front door of Fargo’s Sons of Norway building to the auditorium at the back, the aroma grew stronger.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

As I walked from the front door of Fargo’s Sons of Norway building to the auditorium at the back, the aroma grew stronger. I stood at the entrance and inhaled the heady smell of cooking lefse and tears came to my eyes as I remembered Gram and Mom making lefse in the old kitchen of my youth.

To a Norwegian, this is paradise.

Forty pounds of russet potatoes were boiled and riced two days prior to the cooking. Butter, cream, sugar and salt are added at that time, and the dough is refrigerated. Flour is added the day the lefse is fried. This amount of dough yields about 275 pieces. Russets are used because they are drier than red potatoes.

The 18 wizards – nine women and nine men – making lefse were not young. No one was under 60, and several were in their 80s and 90s. The first table of workers was spooning up the dough with an ice cream scoop and patting it out into discs about 4 inches wide and ¾-inch thick.

The pieces of dough were then transferred to several tables where three or four people rolled out each disc on a floured cloth into a thin pancake about 10 or 11 inches in diameter.

After they are rolled as thin as can be without tearing, the sheets are taken up with long, very thin wooden sticks and transferred to a hot griddle.

The rule is to know when the lefse is done on the down side before gently flipping it over so that it doesn’t have to be flipped again. Doneness is indicated by a scattering of dark brown spots.

Head wizard is Leona Paulsrud, of Fargo, who has a list of 40 folks she can call on to make lefse. Although she is 100 percent Danish, she says her late husband was Norwegian. In her family, the grandchildren begin making lefse at an early age. Her granddaughter was 4 and her grandson 5 when they started.

Leona says the process is easier now that it is mechanized. “Mechanized?” I asked. She said yes, they now use an electric mixer to combine everything with the riced potatoes.

From the end of September through October, the group meets two to three times a month. In November and December, they meet two to three times a week. This has been going on since 2008, when the price of commercial lefse became too dear to supply the club’s needs.

The lefse must be thoroughly cooled before it is packaged. Most is used for Sons of Norway dinners, but some is sold three to a package for $5.

The club offers lefse-making classes through Moorhead Community Education. But they are already filled. Someone told me that they were as hard to get into as buying a ticket for a Garth Brooks concert.