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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

I still remember even what the house looked like where the ray of sunshine blasted through the drought of flavor. I knocked on the door and my companion gave the door approach. Pretty soon the family was inviting us inside. We sat down on the couch getting ready to give a first discussion. Before we could start though, the father of the house suddenly offered us some refreshments. "Queiren sandia?" he asked nonchalantly. My brain was buzzing. In my still burgeoning Spanish, I knew many words, but I had experienced almost no situations that called for this particular word. I reached back in my memory and then suddenly blowing past the heat, blasting past the reluctant surrendering expectation of more cantaloupe juice, the translation came — "Would you like some watermelon?"

After my probably overly enthusiastic accepting of the offer, the father disappeared in the kitchen with his daughters for a few minutes. Soon he re-emerged with bowls full of little chunks of watermelon.

His daughters, ages 10 and 11, came forth and set the bowls in front of myself and my companion. I had no idea how my companion was reacting. I was barely aware of anything except the glorious bowl of red deliciousness that was swimming before my eyes.

I was just about to open my mouth and bite into the blissful palatal completeness when suddenly the older sister said loudly, "O! Nos olvidamos!" ("Oh! We forgot something.")

Perplexed, I put down the spoon and with a sense of confusion saw the two girls grab the bowls and rush out of the room, back into the kitchen. But almost instantly, the girls were back.

Sitting before me was a luscious bowl of watermelon pieces liberally sprinkled with cayenne pepper!

I was stunned. I took a bite.

And, I liked it! Stunningly the glorious juices were still there. The fabulous flavor was rolling over my tongue and somehow perhaps if not better at the very least great.

And all was right in the world.

Of course, I was wrong in that I never again was offered "Sandia" on my mission and ended up drinking gallons of the cantaloupe stuff, I never got to like it. Although, I did learn to love the food of the mission.

— Michael Matthews

I served in the Canada Toronto Mission from 1980 to 1982. While serving in the downtown area, there were some government-assisted apartments, in which an elderly sister lived. We were invited to her apartment for a Sunday meal.

Being from the Caribbean, she cooked a favorite meal from her homeland. It was a humble meal of vegetables and plantain.

Knowing this gracious sister was serving a meal to the missionaries with only love in her heart and knowing we needed to be most gracious in return, we said a prayer and started in.

Never having had plantain before I had only a little apprehension about our meal. When I tried to swallow the first bite of plantain I couldn't swallow it, I guess it being a texture thing. There was a lot of drinking of water to finish it. I felt bad knowing this sister of little means wanted to serve the missionaries the best way she knew how. I tried to be as diplomatic as I could be when asked if we liked the meal. I will always be in humble gratitude for the sweet sister who with her modest means wanted to serve the missionaries by providing a meal.

Still to this day, thinking about eating plantain causes a lump in my throat.

— Rick McLaughlin

I served in the Germany Hamburg mission from July 2006 to July 2008. At this particular time, I was serving in the city of Hamburg (Wartenau area). I was on an exchange with our zone leaders, who also happened to serve in our same area, and we were on our way to visit a family from Ghana, who my companion and I had done some service for at the behest of the sister missionaries who also served in the same ward. It was a busy area.

This lovely family had invited us and the sisters over for dinner to show their appreciation for the service rendered earlier and we had no idea the treat we were in for.

For the uninitiated, most Ghanaian food is eaten with the hands, soups included. Dishes like "fufu," which is a soup eaten with the assistance of a dough or paste, are common and usually very good. On this particular night, we had a very good okra soup, some fufu and finally something called granite, or at least sounded like it was called granite.

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