Describe some character, physical or cultural traits that have been passed down to you by your ancestors.
Let's just start with the fact that I'm adopted so there aren't any physical traits I share with other family members. My direct family is quite the "potpourri"... My adopted sister Sheri is Norwegian and Irish, My adoptive mom was Norwegian, my step-mom is Irish and Lebanese, My dad is Scottish and English, and I am Dutch and who knows... that said I've spent most of my 47 years being heavily accused of being Italian, so I've just gone with that. Some day, when I have money to burn, I'd like to get the Mitochondrial DNA test done that reveals your genetic geneaology!
I grew up in San Diego saying "Totally and Awesome" eating baja style fish tacos or from anywhere ending in "Berto's. If you are from Southern California, you know what I mean! I spent all my summers in Minnesota and North Dakota saying "Uf da, You-betcha, supper vs. dinner, and hearing my relatives saying thinks like "Oh, Say Now!" and "Spendy". I ate rhubarb, hot dish 6 ways, Hazel Smeby's molasses cookies, and "bbq" sandwhiches that I would call a sloppy joe. For he last 7 years I've lived in Texas and say "Bless your heart" "Ya'll" and may be "ffixin" to eat bbq to die for or fried buttermilk pies :)
My dad's side of the family didn't have any strong or shared cultural traits that I recall ,and I share no genetic/physical traits, so for me that brings it down to cultural food.
My mom died when I was 5, so any cooking I learned came mostly from my Grandma Smeby that lived with us. It was all good, but not super memorable.. Hot dish, foil dinners, pot roast, scallopped corn etc. I don't think she LOVED to cook. She ate like a bird, and didn't venture. I can recall she ate almost EVERY single day for breakfast:...a slice of toasted dark rye bread with raspberry jam and a half a cup on Sanka. But I have fond memories of how my sister and I used to LOVE sitting in front of the oven window and watch the Yorkshire Pudding rise, and she made wonderful Chocolate Drop Cookies. In my later teen years my step-mom who was dating my dad at the time had some great recipes too, but I don't recall learning to cook with her. Probably because I was a snotty teenager by then and about "my" business. I had already developed love of cooking and had a very adventurous pallate, which the rest of my family did not really share :) I've been given many of her recipes that my boys and I fondly recall from dinner or holiday's at Grandma Betty's; cheesy carotts, bandido sauce, pizza sauce and THE cheese ball.
The most "cultural" food tradition I can think of that has been passed on is Norwegian Lefse. I never saw my grandma make it, but I know we had it with her several times in Minnesota and it was in several family cookbooks. About 8-10 years ago on one of my trips to ND I ended up with a beautiful Lefse stick with Traditional Rosemaling painting on it that belonged to my Grandma's cousin - Thelma Smeby. We spent many summers visiting her home, dressing up and eating her delicous ice box cookies. Lefse is a traditional soft flatbread, that resembles a crepe or tortilla, but is very delicate and is made out of potatoes, milk and flour. One day I rememberthinking this is something I was NOT ever going to find it in San Diego and that I needed to learn how so the tradition could pass down. I then found out my Aunt Judy Smith knew how to make it so, I set up a day to have her teach me. You really come to find out what a labor of love making Lefse is, and how much more fun it is when you make with family, and that some specialized equipment is needed. So on my next trip up North I purchased a Lefse griddle, grooved rolling pin, and round pastry board and covers and set out to make my own. There is quite some patience involved if you want Tynnlefse (thin lefse) which is a variation made in central Norway. Tynnlefse is traditionally rolled up with butter and cinnamon & sugar. You roll it thin enough to see through, and try not to tear it when lifting up with the stick and putting on the griddle. Lefse is also traditionally eaten at Christmas - so I've taken it upon myself to keep this cultural tradition in the family and TRY to make Lefse every Christmas. I make a LOT and freeze it. The entire kitchen was covered is flour by the time I am done. In the summer of 2009 I hauled all the equipment from TX to CA to teach my sister and nieces to make.. Mine aren't always as thin as the master lefse makers can do it, and most often aren't round, but look like some continent or country on the map, but never-the-less, warm lefse on the Christmas dinner table is a beautiful thing and I am grateful to be able to pass on this cultural heritage and thank Aunt Judy for teaching me!
2009 San Diego - Niece Hope Cordes ricing potatoes for Lefse
Rolling Lefse thin with grooved pin Using Lefse stick and griddle
The finished product and Thelma's lefse stick that used to hang on the wall of her home.
10 pounds potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with water and cook until tender. Run hot potatoes through a potato ricer. Place 9 cups of the riced potatoes in a large bowl. Beat butter, cream, salt and sugar into the hot riced potatoes. Let cool to room temperature.
2. Stir flour into the potato mixture. Pull off pieces of the dough and form into walnut size balls. Lightly flour a pastry cloth and roll out lefse balls to 1/8 inch thickness.
3. Cook on a hot (400 degree F/200 C) griddle until bubbles form and each side has browned. Place on a damp towel to cool slightly and then cover with damp towel until ready to serve.
It is important to make sure the potatoes are cold before adding the flour and other ingredients and be sure to keep the uncooked lefsa cold before rolling out. I also use bread flour - the lefse turns out much more tender. Lefse can also be frozen too
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Very interesting. It's interesting, and somewhat puzzling, to me how the "old time" Mothers who had NO labor-saving devices except kids, found time to make such labor intensive delicacies as lefke's. My Italian in-law ladies do the same thing - only different recipes. Thanks a lot for telling us about it, Ya, you betcha.
Sandy you are just too much!! I absolutely love the way you tell stories. These are just the kind of thing I would love to eat. I'm a potato head by nature.