17 May 2011
17 May - Syttende Mai in Norway; Lefse
Today, Norway, and Norwegians everywhere, celebrate the signing of the Constitution of Norway in 1814.
As part of the Treaty of Kiel in January 1814, Norway was detached from Denmark and given to Sweden. Possibly with an eye to circumventing the treaty, the Danish Crown Prince Christian Frederick, with the help of prominent Norwegians, founded a Norwegian independence movement. A constituent assembly was called, and met in April to work out a national constitution, which was accepted on the 16th of May and signed on the following day. Norway proclaimed its status as an independent nation and elected Christian Frederick as its king.
As you might guess, this did not go over well with the Swedish government. A short war that same summer between the two countries ended the question, more as a stalemate than a victory for either side, for while the Norwegians managed to hold their own for a time against a larger force and the inevitability of that larger force winning, the war was costly for both sides (especially when added to their debts in the Napoleonic Wars), and both sides decided to sit down and talk.
The result was that Norway was united with Sweden, but with its own constitution and its own parliament. Christian Frederick abdicated and the Norwegian parliament elected (rather than accepted) Charles XIII of Sweden as their king, thus maintaining their view that the monarch ruled by the will of the people. This union between Norway and Sweden lasted until 1905, when Norway again became a sovereign nation.
The celebrations of the day are patriotic without being militaristic. The parades are colorful processions of children representing their various schools accompanied by the school marching bands; adults wear ribbons in the national colors of red, blue, and white; many participants wear the bunda or traditional costumes of their area.
As explained on the Visit Norway website: "Parades, concerts, talks, and general merrymaking are the order of the day."
For your own celebration, make LEFSE, the Norwegian flatbread:
You will need a ricer for this.
Peel 4-5 potatoes, cut them into small cubes, and cook in salted water until tender. Drain and return to the cooking pan or a bowl. Get out the ricer, and rice the potatoes until you have 4 cups of riced potatoes.
In a bowl, mix the riced potatoes with 2-1/2 tablespoons of light cream and 2-1/2 tablespoons of lard or butter. Chill mixture for 1 hour.
In another bowl, sift flour to equal 2 cups. Stir 1-1/2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt into the flour. Add this to the chilled potato mixture and blend well.
Take about 1/3 cup of the dough and form it into 2 balls. Continue with the rest of the dough. Chill again for 1 hour.
Lightly flour your board. Roll out each ball into a very thin (paper-thin, says the recipe) round, about 5 inches in diameter. [There are lefse rolling pins available, for an authentic look]
Cook on a heated griddle over low heat until griddle side is a very light tan [these are thin, so it won't take long]. Turn and cook on the other side.
Use the lefse as you would a wrap: roll up slices of boiled ham or roast beef, chicken or seafood salad, boiled brats or hot dogs, or as seen here, with slices of rakfisk (fermented trout), red onion, and a bit of sour cream [I'll substitute smoked salmon for the rakfisk]. There are more ideas here at Mrs. Olson's Lefse Recipes.