Traditions of the holidays

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From lefse to Thanksgiving dinner, food brings people together

Holidays bring with them tradition, and for many families those traditions involve food. For Amanda Irvine, the holiday season means it’s time to make lefse.

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Irvine, 31, said the lefse-making tradition has been in her family for multiple generations. Her great-grandmother was known for being an excellent baker and for making a variety of treats and food, and made lefse each year around Thanksgiving. The family continues to usually make lefse right before Thanksgiving, making enough to last them through Christmas, as well.

The Weiss family has made lefse each holiday season, a tradition spanning over multiple generations of their family. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Growing up, Irvine’s grandmother, aunt, cousins, mother and brother carried on the tradition after her great-grandmother passed away.

“Some of my favorite memories were the nights we gathered at my grandma’s house in the kitchen and spent hours making lefse,” Irvine said. “My grandma, Sharon, was also a great cook and baker. I loved the smell of food cooking in her kitchen. It was a great time to get together and be with family.”

Now, Irvine; her brother, Ethan Weiss; her brother’s girlfriend, Ashley; Irvine’s husband, Andrew; and their daughter, Cece, make lefse at the home of her parents — Wendy and Keith Weiss. It’s a tradition that’s very important to Irvine.

Lefse, a yearly tradition in the Weiss family, is shown in this photo provided by Amanda Irvine. – Provided

“For me, making lefse and all the other foods/desserts that my past relatives made keeps the memory alive of my loved ones and makes holidays special,” she said. “I think it’s important to share stories with my daughter, and love being able to keep the memories alive. Family history is the best thing you can pass on to the next generation.”

Irvine’s mother, Wendy Weiss, said there’s probably over 70 years of lefse-making in their family.

“It’s nice to have family get together and enjoy this tradition,” Weiss said. “Hopefully, our grandchildren will help with lefse-making when they get older, and the tradition will continue through the next generations.”

Mashed potatoes are a staple of Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

For Gerry Vogt, traditional family recipes have taken on new life through her business, Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen.

Vogt and her husband, Jerry — known locally as “The Gerrys” — founded Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen over 40 years ago to support Jerry’s sales position selling meats to grocery stores.

Raising three children at the time, Vogt’s husband asked her to start making salads as there was a demand locally for potato salad. Vogt started with her own mother’s recipes for the products that are now dinner staples for many locally and regionally.

The couple bought their first building on the south side of Albert Lea, expanding over the years, until moving into their current 200,000-square-foot facility on Y.H. Hanson Avenue in Albert Lea. Starting with just three different products, Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen now offers a wide variety of salads, sides, desserts and other items after Vogt said the demand for other products grew.

Vogt said mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese are two of the company’s most popular products, but said the potato salad will always hold a lot of sentiment for her.

“It’s Mom’s recipe,” she said.

Vogt prides herself on the fact that — while on a much larger scale — the company keeps the original recipes. She said a lot of items the company offers make it possible for people to use them while still making recipes their own.

She’s also proud that Mrs. Gerry’s Kitchen continues to call Albert Lea home. She’s grateful for the Albert Lea community — the community she raised her children in and that is home to her entire family — for supporting the local business.

“Albert Lea is home,” she said. “All the way around, it’s home.”

Holidays bring with them tradition, and for many families those traditions involve food. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

About Colleen Harrison

Colleen Harrison is the photo editor at the Albert Lea Tribune. She does photography and writes general-assignment stories.

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