Monday, October 27, 2008

Deconstructing the Mormon Foodie – Part 6: Medical Discharge to Modern Day

Even though the religious persecution had mostly stopped, I don't know that I was very happy in North Carolina. I seemed to just be biding my time while driving a 3-ton flat-bed truck and moving ammo and furniture around for the base General. My life wasn't really going anywhere.

Eventually, my knee injury caught up with me. As a Marine, I was expected to maintain a certain level of physical fitness, but I couldn't run any real distance without pain. The warehouse work wasn't helping. I went to sickbay to see if there was anything that could be done. The doctor looked me square in the eye and said, “You need a longer rest than the Marine Corps can give you. I think we'll have to discharge you.”

That was a weird day, I have to admit. On the one hand, I didn't like my boring job and some of the people I worked around were still bugging me for being a “Mormon.” My prospects for promotion weren't all that great, either. There were already too many corporals working in warehouses. On the other hand, I would be out of the Marine Corps and I'd have to rebuild my life as a civilian having few skills.

In the end, I think it was a good thing that I was medically discharged. I got four years worth of tuition and educational supplies, allowing me to complete my Bachelors degree without going into a large amount of debt. I also get a small monthly stipend from the VA as well as a few other benefits. Broken knees aren't worth much, but in this economy, every little bit helps.

One thing that coming home got me was getting back into the kitchen. I started cooking more. For a while, I got involved in Macrobiotics. My Mom said, “If you want to eat that way, you'll have to cook it. I'm not going to.” That's quite a bit of incentive, if you ask me. I learned to cook a lot of vegetable dishes, and a few Japanese dishes, I wouldn't have tried, otherwise. It certainly opened my palate to more flavors and food possibilities.

It was at this time that I met My Loving Wife (MLW). Of course, she wasn't my wife then. I met her on a blind date and started courting her with spaghetti dinners.

Four years after leaving the Marine Corps, MLW and I got married in the LDS Jordan River Temple for “time and all eternity.” Mormon's believe that we can be sealed together as family units. Such special ordinances only take place inside temples. If we obey the commandments, keeping our covenants and remaining worthy, we can be together forever as husband and wife. Our children will always be our children, and we will continue to enjoy the same familial relations have in this life, in the next.

Married life provided me with amazing opportunities for cooking. MLW hates to cook. I hate yard work. She's not a big fan either, but she likes it better than cooking. If it takes more than opening a can and throwing it in the microwave, MLW balks. Even then it's “iffy.”

Our division of household duties is a little non-traditional in that regard. It certainly plays havoc with the local Relief Society. Whenever MLW is sick, the other sisters in the ward get together and bring over dinners and such for us to help out. When I'm sick, they assume that MLW has all the cooking handled. She told me once, “Why can't they do this the other way around? That's when I need the help!”

It's worked out pretty well for us, though. Four kids and 18 years later, I'm still cooking, and she's still tending the yard. Sort of. Now she gets the kids to help her and I get them in the kitchen to help me. They're becoming quite the cooks, actually. Some days, when they're washing the dishes or doing some other household chore, I turn to MLW and say, “It's nice to have slaves.”

The kids don't think I'm very funny. Maybe they're right.

In any case, the food love has just sort of blossomed from there. Recently, my Mom revealed a bunch of cookbooks and things that she got from her mother and grandmother. It's been amazing applying the cooking techniques and sensibilities I've learned over the years to these traditional family recipes. I've really enjoyed discovering my own history, and my family, through the connections of good food.

Is anyone hungry?


Donna said...

Would love to find a ward cookbook from Redmond Utah. My great aunt Geniel Bowers participated in making this about 15 years ago.
In particular a recipe for canning a tomatoe vegetable soup.
Please help

John Newman said...

Hey Donna! Small world, eh? I don't have any Redmond Ward cookbooks, but I did come across a recipe that might work for you.