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Carrie Anna Cooley

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Carrie Cooley was born and raised in small-town Minnesota. She attended St. Olaf College and now lives in St. Paul, MN.

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0:04:25

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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Carrie Anna Cooley Transcription
“Lefse, duh!”
Hi, my name is Carrie Cooley and this is my family’s immigration story.

In 1911 my great-grandparents Carrie and Martin left their motherland of Norway and everything they knew seeking a new life in America. Settling in Minnesota and beginning their new life as Americans, they found comforts of home by celebrating Norwegian traditions. One of these comforts was the art of making lefse.

It was not until two years ago I realized that some people, including my own girlfriend, did not know what lefse was. EVERYONE eats lefse. Lefse is a “first food” for babies. Most babies have eaten it before they have their first piece of cake. As we Midwesterners with Scandinavian roots know, it’s not too spicy or overwhelming in any way. Lefse is perfect.

Then the age of 33 hit and my world turned upside down. Like many conversations in the course of my lifetime, I brought up how delicious the homemade lefse was we had for Christmas. I was proud my second-generation Norwegian immigrant grandmother was 95 years old and still making lefse for our family. That’s when the conversation came to a halt.

My girlfriend asked if she could have a piece of lefse to try. I was baffled. Bring her a piece…to…try? Of course she knew what lefse was, right? Her mother was part Norwegian and her ancestors had settled in Minnesota! I was borderline annoyed by her request. After taking a couple of days to calm down and to gather the courage to come clean to my parents that my girlfriend did not know what lefse was, I began asking other people if they knew what lefse was.

Naturally, I first turned to my friends of my Norwegian-founded alma mater, St. Olaf College, to confirm everyone’s love for lefse, as it was a staple in our campus meals. I guess I was trying to lessen the blow by asking them first. As I reluctantly expanded my clientele, I realized many of my friends had never tasted lefse.

I feel lucky that not only do I know how to make lefse, and that it’s part of my diet, but that it will always remind me of my grandma and my Norwegian heritage. This year I said goodbye to my lefse matriarch, second-generation Norwegian grandmother at the age of 97. For the first time in my life I was glad I could not speak to her in perfect Norwegian to tell her my newly discovered secret: “Grandma, not everyone knows what lefse is.”

In honor of my grandparents, I get to keep the tradition alive by teaching my loved ones about lefse and all of its glory!