Grandma’s Lefse


(Based on a True Incident)
Honour the face of the old [person] (Lev. 19:32).

My grandma is like most other grandmas, but all grandmas are different. My grandma is different because she makes lefse (a sort of pancake made with potatoes).

Her first name is Laura, but everyone in my family calls her Grandma. She has curly black hair, and I think she is a little taller than most grandmas. She talks with a thick accent. Sometimes it makes me giggle. I love it when she says, “Ja, jou are right” (“Yes, you are right”) and “Yumpen yiminy, Jamey, you sure do talk” (“Jumpin’ jiminy, Jamey, you sure do talk”). Her father came across the Atlantic Ocean from Norway in a boat. I think he must have talked like that too. I think he ate lefse better than he spoke English.

My grandma grew up in Minnesota. She lived on a farm with eleven brothers and sisters. They did all kinds of things together. They had to do chores. They milked the cows and fed the chickens. I think sometimes they talked about Heavenly Father while they worked. Even though Grandma and I go to different churches (I’m LDS and she isn’t), she believes many of the same things I do. Her parents must have taught her about God—maybe while they made lefse.

Minnesota has long, cold winters, and the snow gets very deep. My grandma makes quilts so that we stay warm at night. They look different from the blankets at the store. She takes little square scraps and sews them together until she has one huge piece made of lots of little patches. Her quilts never turn out the same. I think those quilts are like our family. It is made up of different people of all shapes, sizes, and beliefs, but we are still one family.

All families are different. Some have lots of people. Others are much smaller. I like things that are different. Grandma says we don’t all have to be the same. I feel warm when I’m with my family, the same way I feel warm in Grandma’s quilt. I also feel warm when I eat lefse.

My grandma came to our house in Wyoming once. We live in a valley in the mountains. Sometimes deer and elk nibble at our trees. Grandma didn’t come to see the animals. She came to make lefse. She and Mom bought lots of red potatoes. I helped wash them. Then they mixed the potatoes with other things to make the lefse dough. The dough is like the quilt, because it is made up of many different pieces. The different pieces taste much better mixed together.

Grandma’s lefse has more potatoes than anything else. Our family is made mostly of potatoes. I mean that like the ingredients of lefse are mostly alike (potatoes), the members (ingredients) of our family are a lot alike—but not exactly. For instance, I like to make snow angels, but even though Grandma used to do that, now she usually stays inside on cold, snowy days. And we all go to church on Sundays, but Grandma goes to a different one.

Grandma and Mom made round balls out of the lefse dough. Then they flattened the balls into thin circles bigger than our dinner plates. The circles looked like tortillas, only tortillas are made of corn, not potatoes. I tried to make a “lefse tortilla,” but my circle looked like a squashed white tomato. Grandma started giggling when she saw it. I giggled too. Then Grandma fixed my lefse.

She and Mom cooked the lefse on our griddle until it made little brown spots on the dough. Using a long stick that looks like a sword, they picked up each lefse circle and turned it over. I tried to turn mine over, but it slid off the stick onto the stove. Grandma helped me put it back on the griddle. When the lefse was all cooked, we put butter and brown sugar on one side and rolled them up. It tastes really good! I like lefse.

We don’t eat lefse very often. Grandma can’t visit us every year. My friends sometimes laugh when I say that my favorite food is potato lefse. Usually they don’t know what it is. I just smile and think about Grandma.

(Note: You’ll find the recipe for lefse in Kitchen Krafts, page 26.)

[photos] James Whiting and his grandmother

[illustration] Illustrated by Steve Kropp