Document Type

Student Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2020


Folklore | Food Studies | Scandinavian Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology

Description, Abstract, or Artist's Statement

This paper explores the intersections between memory and food-making and how they inform a Norwegian-American cultural identity. Based on fieldwork done in June and July of 2019 in Fosston, Minnesota, I use lefse, a Norwegian potato-based flatbread, as a focal point, for analysis. I argue that lefse-making in Fosston acts as a medium through which residents engage with a collective memory of an immigrant heritage. This traditional food-making, I assert, relies on knowledge passed down through and across family lines allowing food-makers and eaters to experience an embodied connection to their cultural past. Investigating my own Norwegian heritage, I draw on British anthropologist Paul Connerton’s theory of structural amnesia, to examine how my own identity differs to that of Fosston residents. I posit that even when traditional foods like lefse are available, without the embodied experience of making them and the communal and familial food-making knowledge that informs the process, Norwegian-Americans are unable to fully synthesize traditional foods and a sense of identity. However, I claim that structural amnesia can be undone and identity reclaimed if these experiences and knowledge are reintroduced into the group.