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From corn starch to fruit bats to stinging nettle, returned missionaries share food stories

Mission experiences with food are often some of the most memorable

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 13 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

Larry Crowe, Associated Press

Whether Mormon missionaries have stateside or foreign assignments, there are local customs, cultures and food to become acquainted with. And experiences with food — whether it be visiting an outdoor market, eating meals with members or encountering a local favorite — are many times some of the most memorable and frequently shared of the mission experience.

When we asked readers to send us their missionary-food stories, our email box filled up. Below is a sample of responses we received. We hope you enjoy reading these stories, shared in the spirit of good fun, reverence for missionary work and respect for various cultures around the world.

As a new missionary in southern France in early 1981, we had a hankering for American cornbread, which recipe was in the mission cookbook.

We rounded up the ingredients, and I noticed that French cornmeal seemed to be a bit finer than American cornmeal, but I didn't think much of it, since many of the equivalent French foods were slightly different.

We mixed it, baked it and let it cool, and when we sliced it, we found the corn bread to be as hard as a hockey puck. We followed the recipe exactly. What went wrong?

That's when we learned the difference between the French words for "corn meal" and "corn starch."

— Chris King, Gaithersburg, Maryland

I served in the Texas Dallas Mission from 2002-04. As a stateside missionary, we were fed very often by members. I never had many bad meals. I can remember the best meal, though.

We were going down the ward list and trying to meet all of the members in the area, mostly to reach out to less-active members. We knocked on a door that I didn't recognize the name for. When the door opened, I realized it was an active member's house, and I just never remembered their name.

Anyway, we quickly got to know the family and found out that not only were they extremely friendly, but the father owned a well-regarded restaurant. He asked us if we had eaten lunch, and after we said no, he prepared a smorgasbord in 20 minutes flat. We had steak, quail,

lobster and barbecued chicken with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables.

It was the best-tasting food I had for the whole mission, and it was amazing seeing him be able to whip it together in short order.

— Bryce Hanson

My husband and I served a leadership mission in the Philippines from 1997-99 and had a wonderful time! The first thing we did was ask the young AP elders assigned to take us to our new home to please help us get a few groceries before we got there.

They took us through the planke (outdoor market) and I was able to purchase Clorox, a dozen eggs, a chicken, celery (six little scraggly bunches that equaled one of our bunches of celery), a half pound of carrots (what will you do with that many carrots, the clerk asked), some onions and potatoes.

When we got to our new home we had to boil the water for 10 minutes, wash the vegetables and eggs with Clorox water, then rinse with the boiled water, and never use the potato peel. It was time-consuming!

Once, when we decided to have some variety, we purchased a couple of octopuses and my husband had black ink clear to his elbows after he cleaned them for me. I cooked them and they tasted like rubber!

When we would go to the ward parties the food would be served in plastic baggies and the folks would eat with their two forefingers and push the food off into their mouths with their thumbs.

We felt like a king and a queen because they would have a plate and silverware there for us to eat with.

They were some of the nicest, most thoughtful people we have ever met! We absolutely loved our mission!

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