Face it: as you age, life loses some of its luster, the thrills are few and far between. The tread is gone, the tire bald.
You need something to light a fire, stoke the furnace.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to the problem. Do what most contemporary Americans do — go to the Internet.
I do it. I’m not embarrassed to admit it.
There are times I find myself alone, feeling barren, in need of stimulation, requiring something wacky, something new.
I don’t hesitate; I head for the home office and computer, close the door, lock it, and I call up a favorite site.
I’ve done research: I know where to go on the Internet when excitement and arousal are my goals.
The sites aren’t hard to find; most have names that lure the eager explorer into the web.
That’s how I found my favorite site. I took one look at the name and realized there was some hot stuff waiting — the exciting, sensuous experience I craved.
No, my favorite site is not headquartered in Amsterdam or Bangkok.
When I want release, I go to Grand Forks, North Dakota.
To Mrs. Olson.
She appears to be about 80 years old.
Kinky, you say?
She has lefse.
While others cruise to adult sites in search of cheap thrills, I head for lefse.
You can have your tawdry pleasures, your corrupt carnal pursuits. When I need satisfaction, especially this time of year, Mrs. Olson has the answer. Or, rather, the recipes.
When my existence needs a jolt, nothing does the trick like a stack of piping hot, buttery lefse: the Viking tortilla.
What fishnet stockings do for the average fetishist, lefse does for the Scandinavian soul.
So, it touches me at the core. Like any American whose ancestors came here more than two generations ago, I am a mongrel. In me, several cultural and tribal influences come together in one hefty, gap-toothed package. Swedes are swimming in the deep end of my gene pool. They mix there with some strange partners, but they are there in force. Especially when it comes to food.
As a result, lefse is mighty important to me. It is the stuff of winter, the flatbread of Nordic peoples land-bound by frozen fjords, stuck in dwellings full of peat smoke, the odor of nasty armpits and stale mead, anxious for the ice to melt so they can sail off and pillage a monastery.
This is food I enjoyed as a lad. Aunt Hazel whipped up lefse for the winter holidays. We slathered the warm rounds with butter and ate them as molten globs of fat fell to our laps. Every now and then some jam or jelly would be added, the lefse rolled around the sweet contents, and we kids enjoyed it with a ripping good dose of Bosco as a chaser.
Uncle Warren served lefse at his Don’t Ever Forget You’re Kind Of Swedish Christmas Eve buffet.
Swedes love to eat a couple huge meals in the course of one winter day; Christmas Eve was one of those days. Our family sat down to dinner at 6 p.m. By 10 p.m. it was time to zip over to Uncle Warren’s place for more food — Swedish food: Meatballs, herring, lutefisk, scallop casserole, korv, cheeses, smoked meats, lingonberries, all manner of pastries. Lots of coffee. Glogg and aquavit were accompanied by toasts delivered in clumsy pidgin Swedish. On occasion, some goof played an accordion.
And, there was lefse.
I was fond of rolling five or six meatballs or a couple heaping helpings of scallop casserole in a round of lefse and devouring the creation in two or three bites.
I was a lefse aficionado.
Aunt Hazel taught me how to make lefse when I was a little guy. I helped her each year, down in the basement at the long, wide table in one of the two kitchens in the house. Hazel was a veritable lefse machine, starting the dough the night before, finishing the hearty product the next morning.
Lefse dough contains nearly every key element in the Nordic winter diet: potatoes, cream, butter and flour. Toss in some fish, turnips and all manner of fermented things, and you’re floating with the current.
Night one, we’d plop tons of russets in the pot to boil and once they were done, we would skin them and rice them a couple times. Into the riced potatoes went a lot of melted butter, heavy cream, salt and sugar. The dough was put in large bowls, covered and set in the fridge for an overnight rest.
The next day, the dough was completed with the addition of flour. The dough was shaped into logs, the logs cut into sections, the sections rolled out on a floured tabletop. Each thin round was cooked on a hot, ungreased griddle until golden on each side, with just a hint of brown freckles. The rounds were carefully removed, folded and stacked between tea towels on platters.
Those that the hefty, gap-toothed assistant cook didn’t smear with butter and eat on the spot.
There were times I had to be forcibly restrained.
Now, the time of year is rolling around when I, the mongrel, get nostalgic for all the different holiday celebrations involved with the season (well, maybe not as attached to Kwanzaa as the others) and my response is to cede to the Swede and make lefse.
I’ll take four huge russets, halve them and boil them in their jackets until soft. I’ll let them cool a bit then rice four cups worth of the spuds.
I’ll mix in a quarter cup heavy cream and a half stick of unsalted butter, melted. I’ll season the mix with a teaspoon and a half each of salt and sugar, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
The next day I’ll sprinkle a work surface with flour then gently knead about 1 3/4 cups of flour into the dough. I’ll shape the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter then cut sections and roll each section into a thin round.
The rounds are cooked on an ungreased griddle, heated to about 450 degrees. I’ll watch the first couple rounds carefully, adjusting the heat when necessary. I’ll make my rounds fairly small, because getting the soft flatbread off the griddle without tearing it is difficult.
Each round, when baked, is folded in half, then in half again, and put on a soft cotton towel with another towel draped over the stack to retain the heat.
I’ll eat several pieces of lefse as I work.
I’ll have to be forcibly restrained from eating more.
My effort will be somewhat awkward; I lack the requisite equipment, which can be ordered from any number of companies in Minnesota and North Dakota — as well as areas north of the border on the harsh plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan where Nords like to gather. From these companies, a serious lefse maker can obtain special electric lefse grills, grooved rolling pins with covers, heavy-duty ricers, lefse boards and the critically important lefse turning stick (the more expensive sticks engraved with traditional Nordic designs).
Without the equipment it would be darned near impossible to be considered for a place in the Lefse Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first inductee, Mrs. Gladys Hove, considers the turning stick indispensable.
I’ve come up with a great idea, using the lefse rounds I don’tdevour straight from the griddle: a northerly version of the crepe, the base for a holiday lefse extravaganza.
In a nod to the Swedes in the family, I’ll gently poache a small salmon filet then cube it. I’ll poach a half pound or so of shrimps, make a stiff cream sauce and season it with salt, pepper, a teensy bit of mustard and some fresh dill. I’ll add the salmon, shrimps and a handful of baby green peas, then roll the mix in rounds of lefse and put them in a buttered gratin dish. The extra cream sauce goes on top of the tubes and I’ll sprinkle the contents of the dish with grated Jarlsberg. Into the oven it’ll go until the cheese is melted, bubbled and browned.
Just about anything can be rolled in lefse and baked with a sauce.
Having a Hanukkah party? Brisket and roasted root vegetables rolled in lefse with a demiglace and horseradish glaze.
Holiday buffet? How about a MexiSwede casserole of lefse rolled with a chorizo, egg and corn filling and topped with red chile. Some queso? Heck, why not?
Sweets? Amp up the amount of sugar in the lefse dough and fill the rounds with a berry cream. Dust with powdered sugar.
I’m on a lefse rampage. I’m going to work to perfect my recipe this holiday season. I think a clove or two of garlic boiled and riced with the potatoes will make an excellent addition to a savory lefse. What about dill or caraway lefse? How about adding some ground red chile or some paprika to the dough?
The options seem limitless.
I need to get in touch with Mrs. Olson at her website and discuss my ideas.
And, while I’m at it, I’ll ask whether she has any fishnet stockings.