“So You’re Going on a Mission!” What’s cooking? August 16, 2016Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Humor, Responses.
Tags: books, christianity, cooking, food, Jello, Lileks, missionaries, Mormons, religion
Continuing with a chapter-by-chapter dissection of the 1968 guide for prospective Mormon missionaries. Still talking about Chapter 8, Food Care.
Before I begin discussing the book, I’d like to refer everybody to the wonderful website of James Lileks, and especially his Institute of Official Cheer, which is the source for all the wonderful photos of 1950’s and 60’s “food” I have included below.
Last time we took a look at all the wonderful advice, and lack of it, for safe cooking for the new missionary. This post, let’s see what it is that they are actually supposed to be eating.
The book does emphasize eating a balanced diet, with a variety of foods. She suggests planning menus ahead, buying what’s in season, and comparing costs at the market. All good advice, and she does a fine job on that.
Of course, since the missionary is on a limited budget, she suggests that they buy cheaper cuts of meat, day-old bread, processed cheese (read Velveeta) instead of real cheese, and powdered milk. All the encouragement for fasting is starting to look a little better now.
She also suggests sticking to basic cooking, which is good advice considering that most of the missionaries are probably beginner cooks.
“Forget about elaborate sauces, hot breads, and complicated desserts and concentrate on learning how to fix French toast, soup, beans, eggs in all styles including omelet, sandwiches of many varieties, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, rice, easy puddings, pizza, tacos, white sauce, simple casseroles, all styles of potatoes, gravy, and nutritious salads.” (pg 68)
Wait – white sauce? I don’t think that’s a dish for a beginner, but I guess it was a necessary staple in the 50’s and 60s. And pizza? That’s freaking complicated and difficult to get right – you are dealing with a really elastic yeast dough, and need a really good oven and either special cookware or pizza stones to produce anything resembling good pizza. So my expectation is that they weren’t making anything resembling good pizza.
“What then does a missionary do? He fixes food he learned to prepare in scouting or at home, he does what he can remember seeing his mother do, he experiments and invents, he gets recipes off boxes and cans, or he picks up ideas from a companion, local member, or landlady.”(pg 68)
Any good recipes for our missionary?
Fry hamburger patties; make gravy over them (using the same pan); server over either instant potatoes, minute rice, or crumbled up bread.
Dice four hard-cooked eggs and add to one cup of white sauce. (When in a real hurry, use an undiluted can of cream of mushroom soup for your white sauce.) Make toast and place cooked ham, bacon or chicken on the toast. Pour hot egg mixture over this and “fancy up” with whatever is available – chopped parsley, leftover peas, or grated cheese.
Make quick patty shells by pressing slices of trimmed, buttered bread into the greased cups of a muffin pan. Toast in a hot oven until crisp and lightly brown. Fill with creamed tuna. (pg 66)
Wow. Minute Rice and creamed tuna. Hamburgers served with gravy on crumbled bread. This is the height of 1950’s home cooking. So I looked to see if there were recommendations about the classic dish from this era: Jello. She does not disappoint.
“Put leftover fruit juices in punch or jello… Put leftover fruit into fruit cocktail, fruit salad, gelatin salad, or a custard-type pudding.” (pg 72)
At least there’s no recommendation to fill jello salads with vegetables. I remember from my college days we were served green jello filled with chopped carrots and celery, and I hope never to be served that again. Eurrggh.
But once again, what’s most telling about this chapter is what’s missing. In a couple of places our author says “If you have a refrigerator”, but the rest of the chapter is written assuming there is one. There’s nothing here to help out the missionary who doesn’t have a refrigerator. Do we know whether the local organization can help you get a dorm-size fridge? How about some advice on how to manage without a fridge? Nope.
And what do you do if you can’t find lodgings that even have a kitchen? My spouse spent many weeks of Officer’s Basic living in a B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officer’s Quarters), and found that an amazing amount of cooking can be done with just an electric skillet and a hot pot. But our author just assumes kitchen access is available. Some advice on what foods can be easily prepared with a skillet or single hot plate would have been useful here.
And for the missionaries sent to exotic foreign areas, there is also no suggestion of taking the opportunity to learn how to cook foods from the local cuisine. Learning how to use local fresh ingredients is a much better option than sticking to American foods that might be hard to find or expensive, cooking lessons from a local cook would let these teens interact with locals without being obligated to preach at them, and the kids might actually broaden their experience from their trip. (Oops! Wouldn’t want that, now, would we?)
The best this book has to offer on the subject of local cuisine is this:
“If your call is to a foreign mission, however, go prepared to accept new and different foods. This won’t always be easy to do if you’ve had an indulgent mother.” (pg 68)
Next up, a long chapter on table manners.