Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving and Ma Donna

In Eleva Thanksgiving for the Anderson Family was quite an affair. My Grandpa and Grandma Anderson were the focal point for our family in the 60's and you could be assured of a fabulous meal that last Thursday of November. My Grandma Myrt was quite the lady as Grandpa Roy had a severe stroke years earlier and wasn't much help in the kitchen. The plan was always to meet at their house about 11:00 in the morning and feast away. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins would join in for the thanksgiving meal, and there were quite of few of us. It's these times when I was young that developed my close relationships with my Uncles Keith, Dewey, Loren; aunts Dorothy, Shirley, and LaVonne, as well as all my wonderful cousins and remain to this day. Thanksgiving at Grandma's was in the true Norwegian tradition. It marked the beginning of the Lefse and Lutefisk season. Lefse is one of my favorite things to eat and was always served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is simply a soft potato based flat bread that is wonderful with butter and sugar, rolled up and eaten. Lutefisk is another story! It is generally baked or boiled and served with melted butter. Often it is added to the lefse for what we call a Norwegian Taco. Lutefisk is a strange preparation of dried or salted Atlantic Cod fish that is soaked in lye, who's origins can be traced back to the 1500's. Although it sounds horrible, many foods used lye in their preparation and presevation as it was difficult to make fresh protein last long enough to store for later or transport. Drying and salting Cod was a preferred why to preserve the fish and in order to eat, it must be soaked in water and sometimes lye! The lye gives it a jelly like texture as it cures the flesh. In my opinion it has a musty odor when cooked, one I never got use to. Of course we also had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumkin pie with real whipped cream, all homemade. The joys of fresh cranberry relish and real whipped cream is a rare treat these days. The picture is a traditional Norwegian serving of Lutefisk, Lefse, cranberry relish, potatoes and of course the Norwegian flag.
One of the reasons dinner was serve early is so everyone can get to the other side of their families to do it all over again! I wasn't so lucky as my mother's side lived 250 miles away in Milwaukee. To compensate I would end up going over to Ma Donna's house Thanksgiving afternoon. Ma Donna is the name of my good friend Kevin Aiona's mother. She lived across from the church and always had time for us kids so we just called her Ma Donna. Kevin along with his older brother Brent were constantly hunting so Thanksgiving in the Aiona house was no ordinary affair. More often than not one could walk into her kitchen and see a roaster filled with a venison roast surrounded with a rabbit, couple of squirrels, a possible partridge, and maybe even a duck. Mashed potatoes were served with with a wonderful gravy from the wild feast. Dessert was usually a sweet potato pie. Donna could make that pie taste like the best pumpkin pie you ever had. She never had a lot of money so she used the next best thing, the bounty of her sons and her heart. Between the lefse, the smell of the lutefisk cooking, and Ma Donna's special menu, Thanksgiving was always a special time. My Grandpa and Grandma are gone, as well as my dear Uncle Dewey, however I am blessed with having both parents still alive, Ma Donna is still cooking, and Kevin remains the dearest of friends. I hope you have a lot to be as thankful for as I do. Have a great Thanksgiving and pick up some lefse for your guests, maybe they will have a story or two to tell someday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks dave for the blast of the past, she still is the best cook in the world and we had alot of wonderful meals made up of whatever we caught or hunted. you have a great day and happy holidays and we will see ya when you come back home