The perfect accompaniment to lutefisk

POULSBO — Saturday morning found Roseann Mitchell buttering and rolling lefse as a group of volunteers made the final preparations for the Sons of Norway’s annual lutefisk dinner.

Mitchell, along with Grace Overby, Mary Spray and Bernice Burns, carefully cut the six-inch circles in half before configuring them to neatly fit on serving trays so hungry patrons would have the opportunity to spruce them up with cinnamon and sugar.

“I learned from my mom, and last year she got all the nieces together and had a lefse-making party,” said Mitchell as she watched her mother, Burns, led the group.

Everyone can read a recipe and get the basics of making lefse, but that doesn’t compare to getting a hands-on learning experience, Mitchell said.

“There can’t be any creases in the balls and Grace taught me that last year,” she said.

Even though everyone can make the traditional Norwegian flat bread, Mitchell said her mother is the best lefse-maker she knows.

At 87 years young, Burns said she learned to make a different version of the flat bread, which was called stumpa.

“I got it from my family,” Burns said, reminiscing about the hard flat bread her family made.

The bread was a staple at holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas and also at special events, like weddings, Burns said.

For Spray, lefse is something she married into as she grew up in a traditional Irish family.

“I’m Irish and my husband made lefse and his family made lefse,” Spray said with a smile as she continued buttering stacks of the soft flat bread.

With the lefse-making under control, Tommy Thompson kept a close eye on John Vanderhalf as the pair began preparing the lye-soaked star of the event before lutefisk seekers filled the lodge’s social hall.

“We’ve got to have 100 pounds ready by noon,” Thompson said as he and Vanderhalf weighed out another five pounds of lutefisk for the event.

Once the cod was cut into pieces of uniform thickness, it was measured out in five pounds increments and wrapped in cheese cloth before being boiled for five to seven minutes. Then it was drained and moved to the steaming pot before being sent out for consumption.

“It’s getting better,” Thompson said of the Norwegian delicacy. “The last two years have been excellent.”

Better lutefisk makes for easier preparation and ultimately a better dining experience, he said.

As the smells of fresh lutefisk began filling the kitchen, only Burns commented about the upcoming gastronomic delight.

“I’m the only one in the family that eats it,” Burns said matter-of-factly as she continued rolling lefse along with the rest of the ladies.

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