Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How I Became a Mormon Foodie

The story of my transformation from a mild mannered Mormon kid, into a raving food maniac, is a long and sordid one. I like to blame it on my mom, because she's such a good cook. Truth be told, she just sowed the seeds of my ... well, not really destruction but, you get the idea.

The Mormon part of the equation is pretty simple. Or rather it's complex. No, wait. It's simple. No . . . never mind. I was born into the LDS Church. I grew up in what used to be a suburb of Salt Lake City, and lived a pretty mundane life. Years later, as all rational thinking people do, I began questioning my actions and beliefs. I tried out various philosophies and religions ranging from Zen Buddhism to Scientology. In the end, I came back to my LDS roots. Even though I was born in the LDS Church, I still feel like there was a time in my mid-twenties when I was actually "converted."

So much for the 'Mormon' part of being a Mormon Foodie.

The Foodie part is a little stranger. I think it started with food as a source of comfort. It's very easy for parents to try and "fix" their children's problems by offering them a treat. As an adult I've begun to realize that it's more like a bribe. "Please quit screaming and I'll give you a cookie." For me it wasn't cookies, it was cold cereal.

"It's time for bed, John." my mother would say.

"But I'm hungry!" I would whine.

Rinse and repeat.

After a while, my Mom got tired of it, I'm sure, and just gave in.

"Fine. Pour yourself a bowl of cereal and then go to bed."

So, I grew up doing one of the things they tell you never to do (and to this day I still do way too often): eating just before bedtime.

Later, in fourth of fifth grade I think, I had another dose of food love. Through a school book program, I bought my first cookbook: "A Peanut's Cookbook." I loved the comic strip, so how could I pass this up? There were actually some pretty cool recipes in there (I still love the simplicity of 'Red Baron Rootbeer'), and I got a little weird about them. There was even a recipe for dog food (which my mother never let me make).

There was one recipe I remember called 'Sally's Scrambled Eggs." One day I got a little weird. I was too young for my mom to feel comfortable with me at the stove. I egged her on (pun intended) to make me eggs according to this recipe, and none other. She warned me they were going to be too salty (she was right), but the texture was light and fluffy. I'd never had scrambled eggs like that before.

Score one for cookbooks.

The Relief Society had something to do with me being a Foodie, too. Many ward Relief Societies are obsessed with doing various home craft projects from time to time, including, but not limited to, making cookbooks. Growing up, my home ward was no exception. At some point in my early teens, they combed the ladies in the ward and compiled a book of favorite recipes. I remember going through it and finding all kinds of weird dishes I'd never heard of. I'd seen them on TV and in magazines, but I'd never actually eaten them. My father's tastes in food stretched only so far, and so our typical family fair was, well ... pretty meat and potatoes based, with limited seasoning. Anything beyond salt and pepper was suspect.

For some unknown reason, I decided I was going to learn to cook. I already knew how to make toast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so I was good to go. How hard could it be? So I decided to start trying some of the recipes. Much to my parent's chagrin, I decided to make a cheese soufflé.

Okay, that probably wasn't the best choice, but it turned out alright. I thought it tasted good. It was light and fluffy, and vaguely cheesy. My parents ate it without making sour faces, so that was a good sign.

One odd thing I remember about it, though, was that my Parent's weren't at home at the time. Maybe I was trying to avoid them subconsciously, I don't know. My Dad was at work, and I don't remember where my Mom was. What I do remember, though, was calling my neighbor, Mrs. Sloane. I didn't know how to separate egg yolks from egg whites, and the recipe said I needed to. She thought I'd gone mad, but she was nice enough to come over and show me how.

Later on I used that same cookbook to get dates, or rather to entertain them. There was a recipe for a slow-cooked marinara sauce that I still think is the best I've ever had. On more than one occasion I cooked this up for the girls I was courting, including the one who became my wife.

But, you'll have to wait until later for rest of the story.

No comments: