A Writing 101 assignment is to tell you about my favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted me and has deep roots in my memory. I can’t choose between two favorite meals, so I’ll share both. Once comes from my Norwegian heritage: lefse, but NO lutefisk! (Uff da!! That’s nasty tasting whitefish that’s been dried in lye to preserve it for the winter when fish were scarce. To use, it’s soaked in a pot of cold water overnight to rejuvenate it and remove the lye. yeuck!) The other favorite, special occasion dinner comes from my Irish heritage: beef pastie pies.
Lefse is seasonal, so we’d have it during the cold months. The special celebrations included my birthday, sometimes Christmas Eve and/or New Year’s Eve. Have you ever heard of lefse??? Lefse is potato flatbread. Rolled flat, like a tortilla. Only thinner, if made well. You use leftover mashed potatoes with an egg yolk, flour, and butter mixed together gently so it makes a dough the consistency of a delicate pie crust. This is rolled out in a circle, as thinly as possible and handled as little as possible or it gets tough. Fried on a flat griddle, flipped when it starts to bubble and brown on the one side, then lightly browning the other side. Traditionally it was served with lutefisk and mashed potatoes with blobs of butter smeared all over it. My mom only made me try lutefisk once, thank goodness! She’d normally serve lefse with flaky cod, poached in milk, salt and butter until done to perfection. Add more wonderfully fluffy mashed potatoes, with gobs of butter. Know how to eat it? Lay the lefse flat on your plate. Plop some mashed potatoes in the middle, and spread them out with your fingers or the back of a spoon. Take chunks of the fish and place on top of mashed potatoes. Put little dollops of butter all over the surface, lightly salt, then roll it like a burrito. mmmmm–I’m salivating as I write this! I grew up in Wisconsin, and there are lots of folks with Scandinavian roots up there. Not very many here in Missouri, so I either have to make lefse myself or head north to find some in the cold months. My great aunt Irene gave me her recipe, so it’s for real–it’s how my great grandmother made it for my great grandfather, whose parents came from Norway. I don’t really have the right “touch” for lefse, but I do with pie crust. I’m sure with practice I could make some really good lefse! Maybe someday. But hubby and son aren’t that crazy for it and it’s very labor intensive. Silly them!!
The other favorite celebration meal, pastie pies, were hand held ground beef pies wrapped in my mom’s flaky pie crust. She’d only use salt, pepper and catsup to season. I thought I’d died and went to heaven when she made these. If lefse wasn’t an option, I’d get to have these. I make them for my son and hubby, but add finely diced onion, potatoes and carrots along with some garlic, salt, pepper, and thyme. After visiting Ireland and checking several Irish cookbooks, I found these additions to be the norm, and it tastes so much better to my advanced palate. Jeepers–I must be hungry as I’m salivating again! I think I need to make some this weekend and bring my mom’s spirit into the kitchen with me. What’s your favorite, special meal from your childhood??
With warm wishes on your journey,