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

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

My only complaint about mission food was what we as missionaries would cook. Some of the blame has to be mine for the following inventive delicacies: cold mashed potatoes with cold, congealed gravy. I thought it might work on a hot summer day. It didn’t work. Burnt eggs, burnt carrots, burnt mush. I got pretty good at burning food. Pizza, using Lebanese bread, ketchup for sauce and tuna and Parmesan cheese for toppings. Enough said. But, you know, I survived. That’s the main thing.

— Bill Hill, of Idaho Falls, Idaho; Australia Melbourne Mission, 1980-1982

Grilled (not fried) calamari

My wife and I had not been in Portugal long, serving in the Lisbon area, commuting by trolley and on foot while visiting LDS Church members and learning language skills. We were invited to the home of President Sousa, of the Sines Branch, for a “get acquainted” lunch and were treated to grilled calamari. These are small squid about 6 inches long, normally cut into rings resembling onion rings and deep fried. In this case, they were grilled whole on an outdoor charcoal grill.

My sweet wife, from Utah, to whom protein means beef, bravely dug in to her offering. A short while into the meal, her mouth appeared black and the color was spreading across her face. I called attention to the situation, and she rubbed her mouth. Everything she touched, skin, clothes, furniture, soon became smeared with black. President Sousa, unalarmed, explained that she had bitten into the full ink sack. We finished our meal and headed for our apartment, attracting no little attention on the way.

We were able to arrive, change and clean up without further discomfort. The clothes even washed out satisfactorily. She, however, has remained circumspect about new tastes to this day.

The people fed us the best they had. We love them.

— David and Wyoma Parker, of Bountiful; Portugal, 1989-1992

Great Lakes Mission BLTs

We got ourselves to stay out late tracting by promising ourselves BLTs when we got back to our apartment.

We didn’t have any bacon for our BLTs, but we did have baloney — aged baloney. No tomato or lettuce either and no ketchup, our normal substitute, but we did have mustard. Without any oil, we did have flour; so, we mixed the mustard and the flour, frying our new sandwich bread substitute between baloney slices.

We dreamily ate our Great Lakes Mission blackened-baloney BLTs, talking about the BLTs our moms used to make. I don’t remember how ours tasted, but I remember my companion falling asleep on the table, smiling and chewing.

— Kevin Marler, Great Lakes Mission, 1970-1971

It looked like steak

My companion and I were invited to dinner with an investigator and a few of his friends. Our investigator served us a beautiful piece of meat that looked like a large New York strip steak.

It was super tender, and despite its interesting texture, was so delicious. About halfway through the meal, I started hearing the Italian word “lingua” whispered between the natives.

Uh oh.

My greenie companion was oblivious, still happily consuming a fine Italian meal. But my glutinous delight quickly turned to horror as I looked down and realized I was eating a big fat cow tongue. I stopped eating immediately and felt my face turn white, then green. The Italians were amused yet non-apologetic. It was Italian cuisine, after all.

As for my companion, I decided to leave him in the dark. Ignorance was bliss for the lad.

— Joseph Ellsworth, of Provo; Italy Catania Mission, 1993-1995

Charm of Southern food

Most of the food I encountered while serving in North Carolina was not unlike what I had been used to growing up in St. George. The only food I had been forewarned about was collard greens, which I did not find that distasteful, although I did not come to really like them either. In contrast, I was introduced to banana pudding, which to this day is one of my favorite desserts.

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