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Reader voices: Dutch oven cooking and the plan of happiness

By Charles Malone

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Sept. 16 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

This monument of a handcart on Temple Square includes a Dutch oven hanging from the front.

Steve Fidel, Deseret News archive

When I first got the idea to learn how to cook in a Dutch oven, I found myself at the local sportsman’s store, aisle D, sort of wandering aimlessly with a blank stare on my face.

I must have been pretty transparent because in no time at all, I was assisted by the resident Dutch oven expert who attempted to sort out all the choices by asking me questions like: What size do you want? What do you plan to cook in it? Do you want a storage cover? Do you want one that is "seasoned" or just basic cast iron? Flat lid or rounded? Take a look at these pretty stainless steel ones. Here is a great deal “on sale.”

I thanked the well-intentioned man and asked if I might just have a few minutes to myself so I might process all the information he just laid out for me. He obliged, and I quickly began to run back through all the information I had learned and tried to narrow down my choices to one or two, mostly motivated by price. I figured I wouldn’t take the biggest one, an 18-inch, or the smallest one, a 10-inch. I ended up purchasing a 14-inch basic cast iron, flat top, with a storage cover. Not the most expensive, and not the cheapest either.

I was now the owner of a genuine Dutch oven and anxious to join the thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who had already perfected the art of cooking sour dough biscuits and yummy peach cobbler.

You are probably wondering at this point just how an article on Dutch oven cooking made its way into the readership of news media primarily focused on spiritual matters and family values.

As I read the instructions on how to prepare my Dutch oven for cooking to achieve maximum results, it seemed there were direct correlations to our life on earth with the opportunity to also achieve maximum results.

Taking my first Dutch oven out of the box was like handling the new birth of royalty — he (or she) looked like other Dutch ovens, but I knew the potential was there to become something magnificent and special.

Dutch oven cooking is legendary, originating in the Netherlands in the late 17th century among the Dutch people.

“The pioneers who settled the American West also took along their Dutch ovens. In fact, a statue raised to honor the Mormon handcart companies who entered Utah’s Salt Lake Valley in the 1850s proudly displays a Dutch oven hanging from the front of the handcart. The Dutch oven is also the official state cooking pot of Utah and Arkansas,” according to Wikipedia.

My first attempt at cooking sour dough biscuits in my Dutch oven yielded 20 or so “white and dry” chunks, yet with a little jam and milk they tasted like nothing out of a box. But that first experience with Dutch oven cooking gave me a foothold on which to build and improve on the next batch.

I mentioned to my wife that I was somewhat glad that my first batch wasn’t perfect. “If it had been perfect,” I mused, “I would not have learned anything. There would have been no reason to become better, to study cooking techniques and to see how I could improve the next batch — and the next.”

Actually, I was quite startled by my statement. To me, It sounded a lot like the plans for eternal life that were presented in the grand council in heaven, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price (see Abraham 3:22–26). The plan of happiness, as presented by our Father in heaven to his spirit children, provided for “failure” as a means of becoming like him.

Lucifer, a son of the morning, would disagree, stating that to fail means “to fail,” or to otherwise lose or regress. Lucifer would propose a life without failure so that no matter what choices were made in life, none would be lost and all would return to God, happily forgiven for their sins.

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