Thursday, February 8, 2007

Of Food and Utah Mormons . . .

I admit it. I like to eat, and I like to eat well. Some people might call me a gourmet, but I'm not that picky. A really good hamburger is just as thrilling for me as a really good soufflé. The trouble is, I live in Utah, and I'm a Mormon.

 In and of itself, that's not a problem. There actually are a few good places to eat here. Many are great little family-run places, just like that diner in Nephi, just off the freeway, that I can never remember the name of. There are some really good restaurants in Salt Lake City, Park City, and other places, too. You just have to look harder. It used to be that you had to look really hard, but that's changed a bit, thank goodness.

No, the problem is in being a Mormon foodie, or, more properly, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who loves to eat. That's not uncommon, by the way. Lots of Mormons like to eat. The problem occurs when you decide to make the move from simple glutton to wannabe gourmet.

LDS folks have some dietary laws called "The Word of Wisdom" they have to follow. Kind of like the Jews do, only different. We can eat pork and shellfish and stuff like that, we just can't drink coffee, tea, wine or other alcoholic drinks. In other words - no brews, no booze. That cuts out about half of what foodies talk about.

We're also discouraged against drinking caffeinated beverages, although there's a raging debate over whether it's a "commandment" or not. Personally I'm erring on the side of imbibing. God knows I've been trying to cut down on my intake of soda and energy drinks. God also knows what a weak willed and sensual person I am. Thank goodness for repentance.

Mormons are supposed to cut down on the amount of meat we eat, too. Most Mormons in Utah don't take that part of the Word of Wisdom very seriously. Maybe we should.

The second problem is the Utah culture. That's not LDS culture, mind you. Utah culture. Some people don't understand that distinction, and sometimes that's problem. I've been told Utah's food culture is actually pretty similar to some parts of Minnesota, mostly those with large Lutheran populations. How can you be a real foodie if the culture reveres green gelatin with canned fruit suspended in it as a dessert? The only thing I can think of that's more prolific here than Jello is ice cream and funeral potatoes. My wife calls them "yummy potatoes.” They are yummy, too. At least mine are. Other people's funeral potatoes can be hit or miss, I'm afraid.

But I digress. If you've followed me this far, you'll realize that what this blog is all about is food, from a Utah Mormon perspective. Even if you're not LDS (and if you're not, would you like to be? I know some very nice young men in suits that would love to talk to you), I hope you'll find all this to be useful in your quest for the perfect palette experience, or at least getting close by cooking at home.

Frankly, I'll be happy if you just get a laugh out of it.