Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Lefse Ladies

This weekend you could feel that spring was in the air. The weather alternated between warm and sunny and cool and overcast throughout the course of the weekend. To celebrate spring, Oslo hosts a program called "Tourist in your Own Town" where we can pick up tickets that allow us free access to all of the museums around the city. We chose to go to the Folk Museum in Bygdøy. I have never been before so it was a surprise to find a large plot of the land dedicated to different types of houses that were used all around Norway at various different time periods of its history. The houses were gorgeous and made out of wood. They were simply decorated with wood carvings. Most interesting were the views into the homes. We got to see how families lived back before there was electricity and modern conveniences. Most homes had a kitchen, some in the middle of the whole house. Often there were children's beds in the kitchens with an additional room with a bed for the parents. In other homes, there was just one room with beds in the corner, a wood pit in the center or a different corner of the house. Large cast iron pots were used to cook the majority of the meals; the same meals that are reflected in the tradtional food of modern day Norway.

One of the attractions in the museum, besides the amazing array of old homes and the stave church, was the lefse-hut. Lefse are a traditional Norwegian flatbread made out of wheat and potato flour. Since it is a flatbread, it is not kneaded long and it does not have time to rise before it is rolled out and baked. The result is a chewy, mildy sweet bread. At the lefse-hut, girls in traditional garb made lefse after lefse for a line of hungry patrons. They made the dough, kneaded it, and baked it over a castiron pan sitting over an open flame. The girls brought the rolled out dough to the castiron flat pan using a stick. Using that same stick, they flipped the bread once and when it was done used an additional stick to slide under the bread in an x-shaped formation to carry the hot bread to the serving table. This cooking technique added a lovely crunch to the bread. The patrons can add all the butter they want to the hot lefse and they carry the lefse out to enjoy in the cool spring afternoon. The result, especially after the long wait, was heavenly. The bread was toasted and slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy and dense on the inside. The flavor was smokey and mildly sweet that complemented the salty richness of the melted butter. I must find a recipe for this lefse. In addtion to the recipe, I must also find a wood pit and a castiron flat pan.

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