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Potato Days: Lefse ageless at festivals

BARNESVILLE, Minn. -- Age played no favorites Friday at the eighth annual National Lefse Cookoff. First-place winners in the contest, part of Barnesville's Potato Days festival, went to Eric and Andrew Smith, brothers ages 11 and 14 from LeSuer, ...

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BARNESVILLE, Minn. -- Age played no favorites Friday at the eighth annual National Lefse Cookoff.

First-place winners in the contest, part of Barnesville's Potato Days festival, went to Eric and Andrew Smith, brothers ages 11 and 14 from LeSuer, Minn.

Meanwhile, second-place winner Nellie Larson of Fergus Falls, Minn., admits to age 87 although she looks much younger.

Third-place winners Rose and Ray Beck of Sabin, Minn. -- well, they weren't saying.

The flour flew, rolling pins rolled, lefse sticks flipped and the tantalizing aroma of potatoes wafted through a crowded Hildebrand Hall. Eighteen griddles going full blast blew a fuse. But the show went on with participants sharing equipment.

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Eric and Andrew are grandsons of Mike and Miriam Lundeen of Bloomington, Minn., who were second-place winners at last year's event and contestants this year. The brothers won $200 for their showing.

"I need someone in the family to make lefse when I get too old to roll it and flip it," said grandpa Mike Lundeen.

Miriam Lundeen's father, Halvard Strand, was with the family, too. Strand knew E.J. Rhone, who invented the electric lefse baker. Rhone donated his invention to Bethany Fellowship, a missionary teaching school, and the first griddles were manufactured in 1951. Bethany Lefse Grills are still being made.

Although all of the winners are from Minnesota, there also were contestants from North Dakota, Colorado and Wisconsin.

One of the innovations at this year's cookoff was a lefse cutter. It looks like a giant cookie cutter or a deep cake pan, turned over and with a large handle attached to the bottom. It came from the fertile young mind of Cody Symanietz, grandson of Donna Symanietz of Fargo.

Donna Symanietz said a friend in the heating and cooling business made three of the cutters in 12-inch, 10-inch and 6-inch sizes.

Lefse is a Norwegian flat bread made with riced potatoes, fat and flour. The fat is traditionally butter or lard. Sometimes heavy cream is added.

It is rolled out on a floured cloth with a rolling pin covered with a little socklet, gently lifted with a thin lefse stick and baked on an ungreased surface.

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When done on one side, it is turned -- with the same stick -- and baked on the other. When finished, it is a creamy color and appears to have lots of freckles.

Readers can reach Forum writer Andrea Halgrimson at (701) 241-5517

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