Saturday, October 8, 2016

I Lefse My Heart In North Dakota

So there we were, four cousins, in Minot, North Dakota, at the Norsk Hostfest (motto: SCANDEMONIUM!), where we intended to get ourselves so saturated in personal heritage we'd come out buttery. Butter is a major reason Norwegians are nice, and also pretty much redeems the cuisine all by itself.

I was a little concerned about that cuisine, because I've mostly been avoiding wheat for over three years now. It helps me keep my weight under control. But I was pretty sure I'd have to relax my diet in North Dakota. And I was right. If you really want to lose weight, go to North Dakota and consume no wheat. You'll be dead in a month. There are buckets stationed at the state border so that celiac sufferers can just go ahead and slit their wrists and get it over with.

Klubb
Because here they grow mile after mile of wheat, and whack it up, and shovel it into gigantic elevators, and decant it directly into the grocery stores and restaurants, which then produce nothing but wheat-encrusted wheat bombs with extra wheaty goodness in the center. Norwegian cuisine in all its variety covers the spectrum from white to off-white. If anyone finds something green in their food, it is flicked away as a probable contaminant.  [Historical note: Scurvy has not been a problem since it was declared illegal by Erik the Red in 980.]

Augustana Lutheran's rice pudding
So at the Hostfest, there were several food courts offering an array of pale food. All things being equal, I decided to start off with Potet Klubb. Five minutes later, I also finished with Klubb, and looked around for a spot to sit quietly and consider my options with regard to digesting.

Klubb is made of wheat, potatoes, and mucilage, formed into wads and set to sail on a sea of butter. There were other offerings: rommegrot (wheat, milk, butter), and lefse (wheat, potatoes, lard, butter), and daringly yellow waffles (wheat, milk, eggs), plus Spud Hogs and Vikings On A Stick. Respite from the wheat can be found in Rice Pudding (still reassuringly white), cheese curds (white), or Lutefisk (white cod and Drano). Norwegian food is like polka music or Golden Girls reruns: weirdly comforting, and you always know what you're going to get. In a nod to diversity, the Hostfest also featured a German delicacy, Knoephla (wheat, potatoes, butter). I have no idea what an Oof Da Taco is.

If I have a regret, other than eating the Klubb, it is that I missed the Lefse Masters Competition. Four winners advance to the finals here to demonstrate their prowess with potatoes, cream, lard, flour, and butter, combined, rolled out, and lightly beiged in a skillet. I am not certain what makes one lefse stand out from the crowd, but I do know that each contestant must complete two rounds in order to showcase lefse in both its variety (rolled-up, and left flat). And there is, my goodness, a shotgun start. And there are only three prizes, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, leaving the fourth competitor in ignominy, even though he or she has already bested hundreds in the prelims. Nobody wants the Beige Ribbon.

These are two different dishes.
It was all very wonderful, but you can't move much in a crowd of really nice people, especially with butter in your capillaries. So my sister Bobbie and I were much revived to take a walk in a perfectly grand coulee just behind Don and Betty's house, right in the middle of Minot, where we found birds, bunnies, deer poop and its poopetrators, and squadrons of turkeys-on-the-hoof everywhere (white meat: just add wheat and butter). I was honored and happy to be there among all those nice people, but also happy to go home to Dave, who is almost as nice.

He has promised to make me a salad bigger than my head.

36 comments:

  1. Wow. Finally, a cuisine that makes McDonald's look like health food.

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    1. There's all kinds of green bits in McDonald's food.

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  2. As an Italian who rarely eats pasta in a white only form I can only say "Oh, dear."

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    1. This is about as far from Italian as you can get.

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  3. I am surprised that the Lefse medal isn't white. Or beige.

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  4. Hilarious once again, Murr! I know the feeling of just wanting green stuff; we hardly ever eat white anything anymore. Just doesn't feel good in the body.

    "Poopetrators" heh heh

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    1. I used to decline salads all the time but Dave's turned me around.

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  5. I'm from Illinois, and 100% Norwegian. It is amazing how little green food people eat on those mid-western farms, but the lefse and potato dumplings (smothered in butter), are the best!

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    1. You really, really, really, really need the butter though.

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  6. The Scandinavians I know---just a few, I grant you, but still---all seem to live VERY long, healthy lives. I wonder if there is something to that strange, white diet.

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    1. They've probably just fermented!!

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    2. I know. I have relatives who never ate anything but meat and potatoes their whole lives, not one vegetable or salad, and sure enough they dropped dead at 92.

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  7. I wonder...was it the reason Peer Gynt ran away to sea?

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    1. I know the music, but not the story, so you made me look it up. What a weird-ass story that is.

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  8. I learned far more about Norwegian cuisine than I bargained for -- particularly your helpful and bizarrely accurate definition of lutefisk. The Oof Da Tacos, however, sent me running to Wikipedia, where I learned that:

    "Uff da can be used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief and sometimes dismay. Within Scandinavian-American culture, Uff da frequently translates to: "I am overwhelmed". The phrase has become a marker of Scandinavian heritage, particularly for people from Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Minnesota, and Upper Peninsula of Michigan.[citation needed] Uff da can often be used as an alternative for many common obscenities."

    I think you should stay away from the Oof Da Tacos.

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    1. Oh, sugar. I know Uff Da. It's Oof Da Tacos I'm vague about. Nevertheless your advice is right on the money.

      Now here's an extra-credit question for any of my Norwegian readers. My sister reminded me that our mother used to say something like "Throstovobotomy!" Meaning "Heavens to Elizabeth!" or something like that. We do not know what those words are. Did she make it up?

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  9. I had a whole comment typed out here hours ago, then we had ourselves a three hour blackout just before I hit publish :(
    I'm surprised at everything being white and seeing so much wheat. I do like to know there is a whole nation that loves butter as much as me.
    in reference to the comment above this, "Throstovobotomy" meaning "Heavens to Elizabeth" it's more likely 'Heavens to Betsy' which is what people often said years ago, Betsy being a diminutive form of Elizabeth.

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    1. "Heavens to Betsy" I'm familiar with (but wonder where it came from). That was a nod to my dad, who used to say "Heavens to Elizabeth" just to be fancy, I think.

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  10. Heavens to Betsy is an old exclamation term now replaced by 'oh my goodness', or 'holy s**t', or 'wow'.

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  11. Here's a recipe for Uff da Tacos, similar to those served (apparently) at the Minnesota State Fair. I wouldn't eat them if you paid me. Uff da Tacos

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    1. That link didn't go anywhere, but I looked them up. One of the ingredients is "taco meat." It'd be hard to bring down a taco out of season.

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  12. As I was shopping this morning I wrote this: "Unless I'm actually in South Dakota, I am always headed there, even as I leave."

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  13. Wheat was considered the "staff of life" in old Egypt. No way am I going to argue nutrition with a 5000-year-old civilization.

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    1. I argue religion with 5000-year-old civilizations all the time!

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  14. Here's what I want to know. WHY does the Sign Out button appear RIGHT where I expect the Publish button to be? I lose so many well-considered comments here that way. Oof-da! Now reconstructing what I said much more cleverly just now, before I inadvertently signed out. Favorite post in a long time. The buckets at the border! The Klubb! I have tried so hard to love lefsa, but I think it's gross: cold butter rolled up in a Norwegian wheaty taco. Having nearly starved in North Dakota before I found a grocery store that carried live alfalfa sprouts, I completely identify with this wonderful post. xoxo j.

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    1. Seriously, can you even imagine what constitutes a prize-winning lefse? "Mmm," the judge says, "taste how flat this one is."

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  15. Oh dear God. This is the only time I've been in the middle of a clear liquid diet prepping for a colonoscopy and I felt thankful.

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  16. North Dakotan here born and bred. "Don't chya know" your article was too funny but you warm up the fresh lefsa with some warm butter and some cinnamon and sugar and it's a warm your soul kind of moment. Now lutafisk is not welcome in my heart but if you don't have anything nice to say ...

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    1. True confessions. I've never had lutefisk. Family legend has it that Mom served lutefisk one holiday night and Dad, who had a strict rule that you must finish what's on your plate, could not finish what was on his plate, and it never came back again. That was before I was born. But I still have that plate-finishing ethic, which is why I finished ALL THAT KLUBB in the photograph. Oh My God.

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  17. Love your take on the Norsk Hostfest! Glad you had a good time. An Oof Da Taco is a taco made with Lefse as the shell, it is really delicious.

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    1. Oh, now, see there? Now we know! Thanks!

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