Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Holidays, childhood and food

When I was growing up we had many traditions surrounding Christmas and a number of them featured food. My family is mostly of Norwegian descent and so we would have Norwegian meatballs (yes, they are different than Swedish meatballs, it's in the spices.), a sweet soup made with dried fruit, Yulekake and krumkake. We also always had Norwegian lefse.

My parents always ordered the lefse from Minnesota. What is it? Lefse is in the crepe family. It's made from mashed potatoes, flour, and some milk or cream. They are paper-thin pancakes, usually around 12 inches in diameter, off white with brown spots. Many Norwegian-Americans eat them spread with butter and rolled up. (I have heard that modern Norwegians in Norway do not eat lefse.) My family always ate them with butter and sugar, especially brown sugar.

I found a place in Door County, Wisconsin, that makes and ships lefse. I ordered two packages. They have to be shipped quickly because it is perishable. When my package arrived I ran around the house showing it to my husband and adult son. "Look! The lefse came!" My husband is a Chicagoan and does not care for lefse, neither does my son. That's okay, other people do not need to share my enthusiasm for a food from my childhood.

I opened one of the packages and immediately the aroma brought me back to my childhood. I could taste it before I actually ate it. I could hear, faintly, the records that my dad would play at this time of year, and feel the warmth of our house, the fire in the fireplace, my mother cooking in the cheerful, tidy kitchen.

It is indeed as Proust observed, that a single taste can take us back to childhood.

I ate my lefse with butter and brown sugar and it was good.

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