Lefse Day

Every year, we gather with our lodge family to make lefse.  It is an all-day affair.  It is a great social time, allowing everyone to chit chat as we work collaboratively.  This year, the lodge here in Northern California used 140 lbs of potatoes and we yielded 75 dozen lefse!

Lefse is a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread. Lefse is essentially made from riced potatoes, flour, and milk or cream, and cooked on a griddle – however, the recipes vary with each family.

lefseday

Growing up, lefse was prepared as a special treat for the holidays. We still make it every holiday season and prefer to eat ours with butter and cinnamon sugar. You can also spread them with jam and peanut butter, cream cheese, or nutella, or you can go the savory route and roll up your Thanksgiving Day leftovers.

Every year, Sons of Norway lodges around the country gather to make lefse for their members or for annual bake sales. My kids have always loved to help in the kitchen and have thereby made lefse since they were toddlers. My daughter has become quite adept at rolling and my son prefers to man the grilling stations.

Historically, the first lefse in Norway didn’t contain potatoes, it was made only from flour. Women would travel from house to house, village to village to make lefse to last the winter months. The flour lefse would cook up like a cracker and be able to last through the season.Many households stored their lefse is wooden boxes covered in cloth or just stacked on shelves. When you were ready to enjoy some lefse it was dipped in water and soaked between damp cloth until softened.

Potatoes were introduced some 250 years ago which were easy to grow and soon abundant. The potato was thereby  incorporated into many Norwegian foods, even lefse!

Like Ireland, Norway suffered from the effects of the potato famine in the mid-1800′s, which is about the time that many Norwegians came to the United States. They brought their knowledge and rolling pins. The result is a Norwegian potato bread delicacy that’s part of a special tradition replicated in many Norwegian-American homes for more than 150 years.

A tradition that you can be part of once again. For everything you need to know about making lefse, visit my Squidoo lens, How to Make Lefse.

Scandinavia Day Thirteen: Fishing in the North Sea

We woke early once again … Arvid had warned us that we would be on the go everyday … and drove out to meet another cousin, Eivind, his daughter and parents at their summer cottage.  The plan for the day was to go fishing.  On the North Sea!!

Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by Eivind and his family. I was taken aback by how familiar Eivind seemed to me.  Funny how your mind plays tricks on you like that.  Anyway … his mother served us a delightful meal of smørrebrod and went out of her way to make hot dogs for the kids in case they weren’t fond of more traditional foods.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t necessary but she insisted.  As we dined, she brought out a couple of doilies she had made special as a gift for me.  I got all choked up!  She reminded me so  much of my own grandmothers.  I was so touched.

After lunch, we walked down to the dock and donned life vests.  I honestly don’t recall the last time I tried to fish with any success, I believe I was about the same age as Sweetie is today.  I hoped they weren’t relying on my skills for our evening meal.  One of the most intriguing things was what we used to fish … I neglected to take a picture myself but I was able to find these images online … the image on the left shows a traditional wood contraption (by welsh-witch at DeviantArt) while the image on the right shows a more modern, plastic one just like the ones we used (from Shelby & Kjerstin’s Scandinavian Adventure).

   

Sweetie was delighted to make the first catch of the day.  Buddy, fortunately, didn’t give in but forged ahead confidant that he, too, would be successful.  Good thing … for he brought in the largest fish.  Sadly, the adults went home with empty hands.

When we got back to the house, Asbjørg & …. were awaiting us.  The munchkins immediately ran up to … to share with him the fish they had caught.  It was heart warming to see how quickly they had bonded with one another.

We then drove down to Tore’s home where we met the rest of his family (his son and wife) and enjoyed a small family reunion.  Another cousin, Paul, joined us and we feasted on a lovely dinner.  
Papachango (as I’ve begun to affectionately call my spouse), however, was whisked away shortly after our arrival to attend a soccer game with Reidar,  Brann vs. ??    From what the boys told me later, it was a great game with Brann bringing home the win!! Yippee!

Scandinavia Day Twelve: Our Ancestral Home in Grotness

We awoke and enjoyed a delightful array of breakfast foods that Arvid laid out for us … bread, a little shrimp leftover from the night before, canned sardines, cereal, a variety of cheese spreads and jellies.  We enjoyed our meal and then packed a light lunch to take with us.

We then drove east and somewhere along the way met another cousin, Tore Furevik and his daughter Ingrid, whom accompanied us on the days adventures.  For better comfort, DH moved into the car with Tore and I was then able to sit in the front as Arvid drove … much easier for conversation and map navigation – which became my duty.

We met up in Tørvikbydgd (I believe) and took a ferry across the Hardangerfjord to Jondal. It had been drizzling all morning so the views of the fjord were less than desireable but no one complained.  Growing up on Oregon coast … cloudy skies and rain was familiar.  Upon docking, we continued on our journey and now drove south to Grotnes.

 In Grotnes, we met yet another branch of the family tree each descended from Hans Asgaut Samsonson Grotnes (1830-1906) and Guro Olesdotter Oyre (1832-1922) …  Marit and her daughters Elisabet & Ashild.  Hans Asgaut and Guro had ten children, one of which was my great, great grandmother, Martha Kanutta who was born 26th May 1860, and carried the name of the place they lived at the time, Grotnes Hill.  She was the third child of ten (Marit and her girls are descended from the fourth child, Arvid and Reidar from the ninth child, and Tore and Ingrid from the fifth). 
At the age of nine Martha became a baby tender on a farm called Akre near Grotnes.  She took care of the farm hands’ children as both father and mother had to work.  As she grew older she became a milk maid, also doing such work as wool carding, weaving, and knitting. She worked at this place for about eight years.  Lars Kanutta Berge (born on the 1st of July 1855, in Lofthus in Hardanger) came to the farm two years after Martha and worked there for six years.  They were then married and few years later emigrated to America following Martha’s eldest brother, Samson.
It was here that we were given a tour of the original homestead (Hans and Guro’s home is pictured above).  You can see the fjord in the background.  From what I understand, the house had been remodeled at some point along the way and additional rooms were added.  Originally, it only a single room.   

From here, we drove a little farther south to a small private dock where we boarded a small fishing vessel  to continue farther along the fjord to Ænes to see the church where Hans Asgaut and Guro were married.  It was an incredible experience … and though some small changes had been made to the church as well, it was like we had traveled back in time.  Arvid explained that Hans Asgaut was ahead of his time in that he was an avid journalist.  He wrote extensively about his daily life as well as kept copious details about his business transactions.  He was a cobbler by trade and would row a small boat back and forth across the fjord to reach his customers.

On the return voyage, the sun peaked out for a short time and we ventured out onto the deck of the ferry where I took this picture of Arvid, Ingrid and Tore.  We stopped in Norheimsund for dinner … pizza … where I was delighted to hear Eros Ramazzotti music play. Our gracious hosts had done so much to plan this wonderful day and truly treat us like royalty … so DH and I had to get a little sneaky in order to pay for the meal.

When we returned, Arvid’s son and grandson were at the house.  MeiLi was smitten with her cousin with whom she enjoyed playing games, browsing the web and generally being silly.  She asked for his address and will hopefully begin a lifetime correspondence.  

Scandinavia Day Eleven: Edvard Grieg’s Home & the Floibanen

We awoke aboard the Hurtigruten and enjoyed a light meal that I had packed onboard.  We spent the morning enjoying the views from the observation deck and working on our journals.  Oddly, another passenger – an older gentlemen (a description I now am not certain applies to this man) – whom sat a few chairs from us stared at us the entire time (for hours!).  He would occasionally turn to his companion when he was addressed but he didn’t take part in conversation of any sort and even stranger, made no discernible facial expression.  I wanted to go up to him and inform him that he had it all wrong .. the attraction was beyond the window … not aboard the ship.  Please stop staring, sir!  I should have taken his picture, I now suppose.  Anyway …

In the early afternoon, we came into Bergen harbor.  Bergen was perhaps the most anticipated destination of our entire Scandinavian tour as it is here that we would be staying with family and meeting many relatives that we in fact had never met previously.  It took awhile to disembark as the crew insisted we in order of the level our cabins were located to alleviate confusion with our luggage.  We thereby were able to see Reidar (the one cousin we had in fact met a few years ago when he came to Oregon) from the observation deck as he waited on shore for us.

We were welcomed with a warm hug (he is much like a gregarious and jolly uncle) and our tour of Bergen was underway.  He first took us to Troldhaugen, the home of Nina and Edvard Grieg. Built in 1885, the couple lived there the last 22 summers of Edvard Grieg’s life.  In May of 1928, Troldhaugen became a museum.  After WWII, permanent employees were hired to manage and operate the museum which then consisted of the villa, the composer’s hut and the gravesite.  In 1985 the concert hall, Troldhalen, was inaugurated and in 1995 the museum building opened.  We enjoyed the permanent exhibit in the latter, purchased a CD of Grieg’s music and spent a little time exploring the grounds and original buildings.

We enjoyed seeing the photographs and gifts Grieg and his wife had received from friends and family.  Most notable was a painting of children playing that he and his wife had purchased after the death of their only child.  Proving he was a little boy at heart, Reidar reached out and played one brief note on Grieg’s piano, receiving a scowl from the interpreter leading us on the tour.  I was just glad it wasn’t my little one .. he later said, “I couldn’t resist. I was in his home. I needed to play even if just one note.”

From here we ventured to the Fløibanen Funicular, one of the most popular attractions in all of Norway.  Only 150m from the Bryggen wharf (which we had explored briefly beforehand), the ride to the top of Fløyen mountain (320m above sea level) takes only a few minutes.  The ride itself was spectacular and the views improved as we got closer to the top.  Unfortunately, it was raining while we were there but it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits.  Had we had more time, it would have been nice to take advantage of the vast number of hikes on the mountain.

Thereafter, we drove out to Frekhaug to meet Arvid, Reidar’s brother, for the first time and to enjoy dinner together. Arvid came out to greet us with big hugs and told the kids that it was tradition for children to run around his house three times before coming inside.  I joined in and the four of us were off on a giggly jog of the perimeter.  The kids loved it and forever they were smitten with one another.

Arvid prepared for us shrimp and a roast chicken. “Just in case you didn’t like shrimp, I needed something else,” he explained. “They aren’t traditionally served together.” Shrimp is a traditional Norwegian dish in the summertime.  Pre-boiled and served cold, you simply peel them one by one and eat them.  Following Reidar and Arvid’s example, we spread butter on a piece of white bread, laid out a few shrimp and then squeezed a little mayonaise (from a tube) and a twist of lemon on top.  I think this might be my favorite Norwegian dish .. simple and delicious.

Scandinavia Day Ten: Cruise on the Hurtigruten

Early in the morning, we boarded the  Hurtigruten  for the final 2 days of a larger 12 day cruise.  The weather wasn’t cooperative and throughout most of the day, it was raining lightly and the skies were gloomy.  The kids and I thereby spent much of our time on the observation deck working on our journals.  
We enjoyed two ports of call while aboard the Hurtigruten ….
Kristiansund … where at the end of the 17th century, Dutch sailors brought the knowledge of clipfish production and for a number of years the city was the largest exporter of clipfish in Norway, exporting goods mainly to the Mediterranean countries.

Molde … where the Nobel prize winner Bjornstjerne Bjornson attended school and Henrik Ibsen vacationed.  While we walked about, we observed another couple attempting to geocache … we followed behind them in hopes that we might also be able to find the cache (sans clues … MeiLi is really good at find the hidden niches) but turns out they weren’t successful either.  

There were other stops along the way to Bergen, but most were so short that passengers were not allowed off the ship to site see.  The Hurtigruten also serves as a sort of water taxi along the Western seaboard and delivers cargo and mail along its routes.

Interestingly, we must have been the youngest people aboard the Hurtigruten.  Upon departing from Molde, we decided to relax in one of two hot tubs aboard the ship.  When the other passengers observed us, they were dismayed and remarked, “We’ve been on the ship for 11 days and didn’t even realize there was a hot tub on board.”  Seemingly, there was soon a small parade of passengers coming down to gauk at us.  

Scandinavia Day Nine: Nidaros Cathedral & Trøndelag Folke Museet

Trondheim … over 1000 years old and Norway’s first capital city.  Today, the city is the 3rd largest in Norway with over 170,000 inhabitants.  The name of the city at the mouth of the river Nid has changed several times.  The oldest known name is Nidaros, which means ‘town by the estuary’.  In the late Middle Ages it was called ‘the market town in Trondheimen’, later shortened to Trondheim, ‘home of Trønder’.  Under Danish rule, it was generally known as Staden or Byen (the city or town).  In January 1930 the Norwegian Parliament voted to change the name to Nidaros, but the residents did not agree.  After a compromise, Parliament decided in March of the same year that the city be called Trondheim.

We arrived in Trondheim shortly after 7 a.m. by train.  As we were relatively close to our hotel, the Radisson Blue, we opted to walk.  We checked in and soon thereafter came down for the breakfast buffet.  Refueled, we ventured out once more to explore the medieval charms of this ancient city. We stumbled upon the Kristiansten Fort (currently under renovation) … Gamle Bybro – the old bridge, first built on the site in 1681, the same time the for was under construction when a sentry & excise house stood at either end (the west side of the excise house still stands) … the Trampe Bike Lift (not presently in operation) – first lift in the world specifically for bikes.

We then journeyed to the Nidaros Cathedral and Norway’s national shrine.  It was started in the year 1070 and is built above the tomb of St. Olav.  In the same area is the Archbishop’s Palace, which was the Archbishop’s main seat from the middle of the 12th century.  The Nidaros Cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace are located side by side in the middle of the city center. The cathedral is the most important Gothic monument in Norway and was Northern Europe’s most important Christian pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Today, it is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world, and the second largest in Scandinavia. It houses several exhibitions:  Norway’s Crown Regalia and the Archbishop’s Palace Museum containing sculptures from Nidaros Cathedral, among other items.  We opted to observe only the exterior.

 We then boarded a bus to Sverresborg to see the Trøndelag Folke Museet.  The museum was a disappointment, however, due to it being the off season (no one was in costume and the staff we did see were undergoing ‘spring cleaning’ and we thereby had to step around ladders, buckets of mop water, etc.) but we did enjoy the small stave church.   A stave church is a medieval wooden church with a post and beam construction.  This church falls under this category but lacks the tall arches so familiar to most.

After the museum, we were all feeling a little down .. it was our first day of rain and we wanted to do something memorable but also wanted to relax.  We took the bus back into the city center and opted to get a quick bite at Burger King.  We then returned to the hotel to put our bags away and began to walk to the pier … I’d came across an advertisement in one of the circulars … and DH and I opted to surprise the munchkins.

All along the walk, the kids were asking questions to try and discern where we were going.  Even when we arrived at the exterior of the building, they didn’t know what it was.  It wasn’t until we stepped into the foyer that they figured it out.  “A pool!”  They were ecstatic!  Unlike the U.S., the hotels did not have a pool.  Unbeknownst to us, however, they didn’t rent towels and we’d neglected to bring towels from the hotel.  We thereby had to buy a towel … $20 for a small 2′ x 2′ … MeiLi and I graciously allowed the boys to use it and we walked around a little to air dry and then used a blow drier to finish the job.

The Pirbadet – is the largest indoor water park located on the seashore Trondheim.  most of the attractions are in one large room, meaning young and old alike can enjoy time together.  Our favorite activity was the well-being pool, situated beside a panoramic glass wall offering a spectacular view of the Trondheimsfjorden, where we enjoyed being massaged by the powerful bubble jets along the outer wall and relaxing on the bubble bench. MeiLi loved the youth pool with a lazy river, wide slide and jacuzzi.  An evening at the Pirbadet was just what we needed.