Saturday, July 28, 2007

Nordic Fest 2007

Today we rode our motorcycles down to Decorah, Iowa to visit the Nordic Fest 2007 celebration. This is the 41st anniversary of their annual summer event to "celebrate the Spirit of Norway." The event always takes place the last weekend in July and again this year it was quite hot. Decorah is situated in a river valley, so it's always about 10 degrees warmer there than anywhere else.

Nordic Fest is always fun because there's lots of good food and we ate our way through downtown: rommegrot (it's actually just a thick, sweetened white sauce to which you add more melted butter and cinnamon and eat it hot, with a spoon), lingonberry ice cream, potato sausages rolled up in lefse, krumkakke, rosettes, and the best thing--lefse, hot off the grill (again, lots of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to put inside, roll up and eat).

For those of you who don't know what lefse is, the best way to describe it is that it looks a lot like a tortilla, only it's made with potatoes. I usually make only 1 batch at Christmas time, because it's rather labor-intensive. To make a batch of lefse, you cook up about 5 lbs. of potatoes, then rice them, add salt, butter and cream, mash them again and let the whole batch cool. After cooling, you add flour and roll the dough into little balls (about the size of a small apple). You roll each ball out really thin on a special cloth-covered "lefse board" with your special cloth-covered "lefse rolling pin" and then use your special "lefse stick" to lift the piece of lefse onto your special, round "lefse griddle." You cook it till it starts to get just a little bit brown and then use your "lefse stick" to flip the entire piece over and cook the other side. For me to make 1 batch from start to finish takes between 6 and 7 hours.

Here's one of the three ladies who were cooking lefse today. You can see all of the "special" lefse utensils she's using (2 sticks in the foreground, the big round griddle, and the rolling pin).

Here's the table where we added butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sugar to our hot-off-the-grill piece of lefse. Everyone makes theirs different. My spousal unit just puts butter on, but I like it with brown sugar and cinnamon in addition to butter.

Nordic Fest is always fun because there are plenty of interesting people and things to watch. There are usually some people from Norway there and it's fun to hear their accents. We saw this guy who would have made a good Viking.

And we saw this lady wearing a hat that seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever--it didn't keep the sun out of her eyes and obviously doesn't fit her head very well (but it gave me something to laugh about & aren't telephoto lenses great?)

Down at the Vesterheim (Norwegian for Western Home) Norwegian-American Museum they always have some heritage displays set up. Here a man was doing some sort of wood carving and the woman was spinning flax into yarn on a spinning wheel.

Here was the Viking encampment.

And here was a bunch of guys doing what Viking guys probably also did on a Saturday afternoon--leaning up against the boat and talking about boating. (The guy second from the right with the salmon-colored shirt is the "Viking" who owned the boat.)

Here's some information about Decorah, Iowa that I found on Wikipedia:

Originally settled by people of English descent in 1849, Decorah has become popular as a center for Norwegian-American culture originating from a high number of Norwegian settlements beginning in the 1850s. Since 1862 it has been the home of Luther College, a liberal arts institution affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Each July Decorah is also the host of Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture with ethnic dancing, food, and music. Decorah is also the home of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, the largest museum in the country devoted to one single immigrant group. Until 1972, one of the largest Norwegian language newspapers in the nation was published in Decorah, the Decorah Posten.


Body Soul Spirit said...

I love ethnic festivals, particularly because of the different foods to try. I have never seen a Norwegian festival in our area. Sounds like you had a great day.

MOM said...

What a fun day you had,especially eating your way thru the festival, Norwegian food and deserts are oh so good and I'm not even Norwegian, of course so is German food so gut. Thanks for the blog.

Jayne said...

Wow, what a very cool way to spend the day! I do not think I'd be patient enough to make the lefse, but it sounds delicious!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Ruth,
I thought of you and your festival posts when I was getting this one ready. It was a fun afternoon.

Hi Mom,
You would have really like the lingonberry ice cream while people watching.

Hi Jayne,
Making lefse takes a lot of time, that's why so many people buy it. But as you know, homemade is almost always better than store-bought and it makes it more of a treat then.

Larry said...

I like any kind of fair or festival in the summer.-It's just grat to get outdoors and see happy people.

DAD said...

She is a red hat lady who has had one too many, happy people watching.

Lynne said...

Oh Ruthie! My mouth is watering!!! I am a good Norske girl! I've only made lefse a couple of times- SO much work, but heavenly. I've never tried rommegrot but it sounds delish. I'm a butter and brown sugar on lefse eater!


KGMom said...

Ruthie--love the guy in the horn helmet!
Several years ago my husband & I toured Scandinavia--Denmark, Sweden & Norway. Our favorite--Norway. Wonderful country--fjords, waterfalls, and Grieg's music!

Martie said...

Ruthie: I love your observation about the Vikings hanging around the boat. I laughed so hard that everyone here stopped dead to stare at me...well, let them wonder. I knew someone years ago who spoke about his grandmother coming after him with the lefse stick if he didn't behave, and I didn't quite I have the whole picture. Thanks! (I grew up with tortillas instead of lefse.)

Mary C said...

That looks like a fun festival. I think I'll pass this post on to our pastor and his wife since they are of Norwegian heritage. Pastor likes to put a "Norwegian" twist on his stories, and he always get a good laugh. I am wondering if he has ever visited Decorah, IA - I'll have to ask him. Thanks for taking us along for the tour.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
It definitely was a good time. The festival lasts 3 days and they have a street dance on Saturday night. I wish I lived closer and could take part in more of the event.

Hi Dad,
I never thought of a "red hat lady" but I bet you're right.

Hi Lynne,
I'll send you my rommegrot's much easier to make than lefse. Your kids will probably like it too.

Hi Donna,
I would like to tour Norway someday--especially way up north to "Saami Land." Everyone I know who has ever gone tells me I would love going there.

Hi Martie,
I'm glad you "got" the story about the boat.
Your friend was right--the lefse stick would work very well as a paddling stick also (the length alone is enough to be intimidating!)

Hi Mary C,
I think many of the early Norwegian settlers came to this area because it reminded them of Norway--lots of woods and hillsides. It's a beautiful area and the Vesterheim museum is filled with many artifacts that came over with the immigrants--a "must see" if you ever visit this area.