Lapsha, a basic egg and flour noodle, has long been a traditional staple of Doukhobor cuisine, right up there with borshch and bread. Made up of simple and readily available ingredients and easily storable when kept dry, lapsha is a nutritious food that can quickly be converted into a delicious, ready-to-eat meal with the addition of water, heat and a bit of melted butter.
All of these characteristics have made lapsha a Doukhobor family favourite, but also a standby for such community events as funerals, where lapsha has been an efficient and convenient way to feed a large gathering on short notice. In recent years, with the assimilation of the Doukhobor population into the general North American lifestyle, and with most women employed in the workforce along with their spouses, the advance preparation of lapsha for funerals and other special occasions has become more challenging for the average family.
In 1988, a small group of enterprising USCC women in Grand Forks came up with a very creative solution to this challenge. They organized a volunteer group that would get together at the USCC Community Centre, prepare large volumes of the noodles, package them in convenient plastic bag portions, and sell them at a reasonable cost to all kinds of lovers of lapsha. After expenses for ingredients, etc. were covered, this hardworking group would donate the remaining proceeds to various worthy causes, within the USCC and in the surrounding community.
In the March 2, 1988 issue of ISKRA (No. 1660), an article appeared thanking the three main initiators of the Grand Forks Lapsha Ladies (Tanka Wasilenkoff, Mabel Verigin and Lucy Makortoff) and all their helpers for the total of $820.00 donated to the USCC by that point in time. In ISKRA No. 1700 (December 13, 1989), a feature article appeared, giving a more detailed account of the "Lapsha Ladies" activities, which were also depicted in photos. In addition to the three "founders" mentioned above, Lapsha Ladies depicted included: Lucy Gevatkoff, Helen Novokshonoff, Mary Horkoff, Vera Semenoff, Nellie Zibin, Vera Soloveoff, Polly Chutskoff, Liz Zwick and Marion Lobay.
Many of these women have now passed on, but in 2013, as the group celebrates its 25th anniversary, there is still an enthusiastic group of ladies carrying on this wonderful volunteer tradition, as can be seen in the photo below. This is how their current Secretary-Treasurer, Lucy Plotnikoff describes the story of the Lapsha Ladies:
"A group of about six ladies started in 1988 using about five dozen eggs and making about 30 bags of lapsha. Now we have a group of 12-16 ladies ranging in age from 84 to 38 (we have also, on occasion, had some of our 15-year-old granddaughters helping out). We now use 15 dozen eggs and make about 90 (1lb) bags of lapsha.
The ladies generally make lapsha on Monday once a month, taking only July and August off. During the summer most of the ladies still grow their own gardens and many have family members who visit.
In 2008, we had a founding member buy a cake to celebrate 20 years. Five years later, marking 25 years, we are celebrating again.
During these past five years we have made 4, 603 bags of lapsha and raised over $32,565. Most of our funds go back to various groups in the USCC Organization, but we have also donated to the Cancer Fund, the Mir Centre for Peace, the Red Cross, to Pakistan Flood Relief, and Boundary Hospice, to name a few.
We have also purchased three pasta machines, two with electric motors and one hand cranked.
We have a great group of volunteers. They are both dedicated, hard working, and a friendly group to work with. We bring "potluck" items to our working sessions and enjoy a nice lunch as well as producing all the great lapsha for our customers.
A big "thank you" to all our customers for supporting our efforts in maintaining this Doukhobor tradition."