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 and Marie Humpherys, Harrisville, Utah

I went to Anaheim California in the 1970s. The members there were great to feed the missionaries every night. My companion and I had a unique experience in one ward.

We had spaghetti 17 nights in a row. We got used to saying, "Oh, look, Elder, spaghetti."

I look back on it now and it still makes me chuckle. At that time we thought it was a pasta conspiracy.

— Stuart Bailey, Fillmore, Utah

Elder Vance made a pan of "Sizzlers," which are basically blazing hot chocolate brownies with double the cooking oil added. Serving the Sizzlers is a four-man operation — immediately after one elder yanks the pan of brownies out of the 500° F oven, two elders hurriedly dish the servings into bowls while the fourth elder pours a cup of cold milk over the surface of each brownie.

Then everyone listens intently while the rapidly cooling dessert sizzles and pops for a few seconds. Some elders have even been known to time the event with a stopwatch in an effort to set a record for the longest duration of sizzling. The record currently sits at about 8 seconds.

— Perry Ross, Finland Helsinki Mission, 1986-88

I served in the Germany Düsseldorf Mission from September 1974 to September 1976. Both my new companion and I arrived at the City of Essen and were without any money for a week.

Our kind bishop took us to the basement of the store he owned and found some old World War II-era biscuit rations. We ate them for a few days to supplement a bag of noodles. Very memorable and very hard.

— Bob Hardy

While serving on the island of Palau in the Micronesia-Guam Mission (2009-11), my companion and I decided to end a particular p-day with some ice cream on a dock that jutted out into the ocean. As we were doing so, a couple in the branch that I was serving in drove up and told us they had some food for us, but we had to come pick it up.

We stopped by later to pick it up, and to our surprise (and my dismay), it was a couple of fruit bats. The natives call it fruit bat soup — when really it's not a soup at all but a whole fruit bat boiled in water. Apparently, the water tastes good after the boiling process, but I couldn't ever bring myself to drink it. I hear Chamorros (natives of the island of Guam) love it. They'll pour the "soup" into water bottles and drink it throughout the day.

Anyway, the bat still has its fur and teeth and insides and everything. Fruit bat is kind of a treat for the Palauans, and they will eat everything and leave only the bones. I didn't want to be rude and pick it apart eating only the meat, so my companion and I just went for it the best we could. The hardest part to stomach was easily the fur — it's extremely absorbent and hard to swallow.

I never did get used to eating it.

— Taylor Barlow

I had been in the mission field in the Southern Australia Mission (1962-64) for about two weeks and I was still very green and very gullible. I was in Perth, Western Australia, and my landlady was Dutch.

One evening for dinner (tea), she brought out a plate full of cooked elbow macaroni mixed with ground beef. Next, she brought out a fried egg. It was crispy — just the kind I had at Scout camp where you can hold it on one side and the rest sticks straight out. She placed the egg on top of the noodles. It nearly covered the whole plate. Next, she brought out a banana and sliced it and put the slices on the egg.

By now, I was getting suspicious of the combination of food on my plate.

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