Minnesota. Born in the Swedish Hospital, Minneapolis. That’s me. My beginnings. My family moved often while I was in grade school. But the moves were all within the Twin Cities area. Then the time came when my Dad decided it was time to make the big move that he had probably wanted to make ever since he was first married: The Farm.
Our farm was located just north of the town, Mora. A little Scandinavian town. Actually modeled after a similar small town in Sweden, by the same name.
As a small child growing up in the Twin Cities, if I did not grasp the significance of my Swedish heritage, I was sure to do so in this second half of my childhood. In this Swedish town of Mora, Minnesota!
Interestingly, my mind seemed void of making that Swedish connection during those high school years. It wasn’t until after I moved back to the Cities as a college student, that I understood this part of me.
I also soon grasped unwittingly that I was Swedish, and not Norwegian. Even though these two nationalities are grouped together with the Danish to form the Scandinavians, there is quite a rivalry between them.
There are different foods that the Swedes and Norwegians each have during the Christmas season. Pickled Herring was my dad’s favorite. A Swedish fish food. Lutefisk and Lefse are delicatessens of the Norwegian’s Christmas time. This is verified by the fact that my dad did not claim them to his liking.
I am hoping even now that I have this straight, so that my Norwegian and Swedish friends and family will not become unnerved at my inaccuracy!
Truth be told, I don’t eat any of it!
Now the way I became familiar with Lefse is through this taunting song:
Yust (Just) a Little Lefse Vill (Will ) Go a Long Vay (Way)
Yust(just) a little lefse vill(will) go a long vay;
Gives you indiyestion(indigestion) most all of the day.
Put(puut) it on the menu,
Youu’ll (you’ll) be suure (sure) to say,
Yust (just) a little lefse vill go a long vay(way).
Leif Erickson once had a boat, it vast a leaky scowl;
He said, ‘To beat Columbus, ve(we) got to leave right now!’
Da(the) boat was leaking badly as they neared the USA,
But dey(they) plugged da(the) hole –
Ya, lefse saved da(the) day!
Lefse’s goood(good) for many tings(things),
And ve(we) can give youu(you) prooof(proof),
For tiling on da(the) kitchen floor,
Or patching up de(the) rooof(roof),
Some folks even uuse(use) it as da(the) soles upon der(their) feet,
And some folks tink(think) it’s even goood(good) to eat!
If yoou(you) know vat(what) lefse is then yoou(you) can understood;
It looks and feels like plastic, and it tastes yust(just) like plyvood(plywood);
Ve(we) don’t know vat(what) invented it,
Ve(we) don’t know whoo’s(who’s) to blame,
But if you are a Norsk, yoou(you) eat it yust(just) de(the) same!
This song was introduced to me in a Norsk Duet format, and I found it most halarious!
In our earlier years of marriage, Tim and I found ourselves in the midst of a major out-of-state move. Yup. Out of Minnesota. Away from the Norske and the Svedes. Unbeknownst to us, away from Scandinavian culture. And before we knew it – only a 10 hour drive away – we were drenched into a brand new culture, The South.
I’ll skip the part about our new title, ‘The Yankees,’ or the impressions of igloo housing. Only to say, the South don’t venture upward to the North very often!
Before long we were enjoying our new jobs in Arkansas. After a few months the it was Christmas time. And we were anxious to experience a new way to celebrate the season…with no snow!
Also, the company’s Christmas party was to be quite a massive celebration! We were to begin the evening with a Progressive Dinner, going from house to house for the different courses. And we also enjoyed each staff family’s Christmas decorations, while we dined in their homes!
Coordinating the dozens of small groups going in timely sequential patterns to fill their Christmas tummies was quite an ordeal! But all went well! It was also enjoyable conversation with the different staff, who moved to Arkansas from all over the USA.
The dessert was to be held at a large banquet hall, with all the staff together. And there would be a program. The program had a special Christmas theme. This year the theme was, Christmas Around the World.
With our Minnesota ‘accent,’ it was an easy pick for the committee to have Tim and me represent the Scandinavian countries.
“Can you prepare a little something to share about Scandinavia Lands?”
It was still so fresh in my mind!
“Yust(Just) a Little Lefse!”
This is at a time before modern conveniences, like microwaves…and Google! So the words, the tune, and the guitar chords would have to come by a different-more intruding way.
Tim and I made an old fashion landline phone call to the musicman/friend behind the song, back in good ‘ole Minnesota!
In the frenzy that we must have been in, Tim and I dialed his number in the late of night. So late, that we were in bed making the call. And surely he and his wife were also.
“Can you sing the song? Can you give us the guitar chords?”
And he did. While we all lay in our beds, with miles between us, the song, ‘Just a Little Lefse’ sang its way through the telephone wires. With the added guitar chords inserted at the correct measures.
All I can do, to this day, is laugh at the gall we had to awaken this man – and his dear wife – for this request! Thanks again, to you.
So with the song and chords in hand, and a little practice, ‘Just a Little Lefse’ was ready.
Now for a show of what lefse actually looked like and what it tasted like, I thought I should make some. With an authentic recipe from a 1940’s Swedish Lutheran cookbook, I gave it a try. Cooked potatoes plus the rest on the recipe, mashed together and rolled thin, into a frying pan she went. And it went awful. Awfully smelly. My lefse looked nothing like the recipe’s pictures.
What can I say, but what Tim said:
“Don’t ever do that again.”
So, what do we do now? Lefse is a long way off. It’s a long road to Byerly’s grocery in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Then the thought entered our minds:
“But, what does lefse look like, but just a run of the mill, tortilla! Yes! And we can get that here! By the hundreds! They will never know the difference! “
So, with a mile high stack of ‘lefse/tortillas,’ We were off for that special night of Christmas celebration. First, the Progressive Dinner. Hor d’oeuvres. Second, the main entree. Then, to the banquet hall for dessert and the Christmas program.
Before we left for the evening affair, we had rehearsed this song in front of Tim’s parents. They were at our place to babysit our baby boy – their grandson.
“Sure! We’d love to hear your song!”
And so they listened and smiled a stoic swedish smile. Pure admiration for their son and his wife, ‘…about to sing in front of the whole company Christmas party tonight.’
(They had no idea that we were trying to be funny. And they weren’t laughing.) This was destined to be a flop.
‘Christmas around the World’ was fast upon us; Tim and I were a bit anxious.
The crowd was lose, though. A good sign. They are looking for something to laugh at.
When the MC introduced us the the Swedish ambassadors, we were on with song, guitar and lefse/tortillas. Tim did his famous ‘Johnny Carson style’ audience warm up. I stood beside him and laughed right along with the crowd.
He was trying to describe the ‘stoic swedish way.’ And the infamous lefse,
“…good for many tings, tiling on the kitchen floor…”
“Patching up de roof…soles upon your feet…”
“ya, some folks tink it’s even good to eat!”
The stoic Swedes sang stoicly.
Then, the mile high lefse/tortillas took the stage, as the song went,
“Yust(just) a little lefse vill(will) go a long vay…”
“Gives yoou(you) indiyestion(indigestion) most all of da(the) day;
Tim took one lefse/tortilla off the stack and flung it into the crowd.
They went wild.
Then he flung another. And another.
“It looks and feels like plastic, and it tastes yust(just) like plyvood (plywood)…”
Fling, fling, fling the circular little critters flew out to the curious audience that haven’t a clue what lefse is!
Up went their hands to catch a flying lefse saucers!
And as the stack of lefse/tortillas dwindled down to nothing, the song was finally ended,
“Yust(just) a little lefse, vill(will) go a long vay(way)!”
Off the stage we went. Laughing as we went.
“So much for authentic Scandinavian culture!”
The laughter finally died down. The other Christmas world cultures were presented. The night was done. And we went home to our baby and the Swedish grandparents. They were wondering how the song went.
“Oh, fine,” we responded in our ‘end of the evening’ stoic matter-of-speaking.
And off to bed we all went. Just another Swedish day. With just a little lefse thrown in.
Life is Lovelier With Lace. . .
It’s fun to break out of your quiet mold every once in a while and cause a little raucous. But how extra good it feels to return to your favorite introvert space and be at peace with ‘just you.’
And that is yours truly. With her hook and thread. Quietly reflecting on the events of the day. That day. The Lefse Day. Smile.
The Ludvigson Lace Lady
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