Wait, what did I just eat? Food stories from Mormon missionaries

Published: Thursday, May 29 2014 3:21 p.m. MDT

My trainer, Sister Sonntag, was tall, blonde and quiet in nature. Much to my surprise, she nonchalantly led me into a “tako” (octopus) shop and ordered some lunch. I sat across from her at the table and watched in awe and horror as she daintily picked up a pair of chopsticks and ate a bite of octopus.

“Want some?” she offered kindly. My stomach (and my fingers) couldn’t do it.

During the next few weeks, I eventually learned to manage both chopsticks and octopus.

— Nettie Francis, of Kaysville; Japan Okayama Mission, 1994-1996

Appetite for adventure

Two missionaries serving in a small Austrian farm town in 1923 reported after eating with a member family, “We enjoyed ourselves until they asked us how we like the lungs. Pigs’ lungs wouldn’t be so bad if one did not know what (they were), but that spoiled our appetites. It was not spoiled very long, though. As soon as Sister Huber saw that we did not like the lungs or the other dish of pigs’ feet, ears and tail, she brought us each the leg of a gander.”

Nearly 90 years later, my companion and I were teaching a Punjabi family in that same town who insisted on feeding us each time we visited. We enjoyed the goat’s meat, rice and chapati Sister Pal cooked directly on the burners of their half-sized stove, but members of the local branch who came with us weren’t used to the spices in Indian food. I particularly remember one Austrian woman who gamely ate a large portion, tears streaming down her face, in order to show respect for the Pals and their culture. When we checked in the next day, she confessed she hadn’t slept a wink all night!

— Katherine Kitterman, of Provo; Alpine German-Speaking Mission, 2009-2010

‘Wait, what did I just eat?’

I was fortunate to serve my mission in the New York New York North Mission from 1993 to 1995.

My first companion was from El Salvador, and to this day, I have the highest level of respect, gratitude and love for him.

At one of our first dinner appointments, I was excited to enjoy some of the amazing food that Latin America is known for. I could smell something good and anxiously sat at the table. The sweet sister brought out two large bowls of soup. My companion looked at me with a smile. After the prayer, we began to eat.

I sipped the soup before dipping in my spoon for some meat and vegetables. As I chewed, I realized the texture was new to me. I could not speak Spanish to ask the sister what type of soup it was, so before I took my next bite, I leaned toward my companion and asked, “What kind of soup is this?” With a big smile he said, “Lengua de Vaca.”

I pulled out my Spanish dictionary only to discover I had just eaten cow tongue soup. To be honest, it was difficult to finish that bowl of soup. On the way home, I kept saying, “Wait, what did I just eat?” It still makes me laugh today.

— Seth Saunders, of Orem; New York New York North Mission, 1993-1995

Remembering

I loved the foods of Australia. I loved the fish-and-chip shops where I enjoyed the chips, maybe a piece of Flake, and potato cakes. The milk bars (small convenience store-type places) were great — sandwiches, pastries, meat pies (with or without sauce). Oh man, the flavored milk that went beyond chocolate flavor, for example, strawberry, caramel and banana — Big M’s, they were called. And don’t forget the variety of candy and cookies, from Chomps candy bars to Wagon Wheel cookies.

When we were kindly invited into an Australian home, we were treated to all sorts of good food. Usually the meal consisted of some meat dish surrounded by an abundance of good vegetables. I especially liked the lamb dishes.

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