In the long tradition of Mormon women trying to ease discomfort of all kinds with food, I thought I’d try to distract us from contentious topics with casserole talk.
My children have recently discovered Jello. This is a development I have worked hard to avoid for 7 years, and I am chagrined. Naturally they love it–after all, what’s not to like about a tasty combination of sugar, animal hooves, petroleum byproducts, and scary chemical dyes? But my resistance to this peculiarly Mormon food has been a point of honor for me for a long time, and I’m having a small identity crisis.
My mother grew up Catholic on Long Island, so funeral potatoes and Jello salads were not in her repertoire. In fact, there wasn’t a great deal in her repertoire, and much of it was awful, so I grew up rather envious of my Mormon friends whose Moms believed that shredded carrots in Jello counted as a serving of vegetables. I remember looking forward with almost as much anticipation to the Relief Society dinners as to the actual *babies* when my younger siblings were born. But as I got older, partly out of solidarity with my “Jello-is-NOT-salad!” mother, and partly as a gesture of adolescent rebellion, I refused to eat Jello and anything made with Cream of Mushroom soup. (Ha! You won’t let me drink or smoke? Fine! but I’ll be danged if you can make me eat Jello!!) I have persisted in this foolishness long past adolescence, and am proud to say that no can of Campbell’s cream of anything has crossed the threshold of any household of which I’ve been mistress.
Still, I have to confess that I *like* funeral potatoes. I even like chicken casserole with rice and cream of mushroom soup. And pies made of pudding and Dream Whip. (Does Dream Whip still exist?) Lately, I’ve needed to bring dinners to the family of a friend who’s in the middle of chemotherapy, and I’ve been wishing for more casserole know-how.
So here’s my question: is there a third way in Mormon cuisine? Can we Gen-Xers (and you young whippersnappers reading this) take the nurturing and tasty aspects of our mothers’ (well, YOUR mothers’, anyway) Mormon cooking and make it hip and righteous for a new generation? Or does this nouvelle Mormon cuisine already exist and I just don’t know about it? (Heather, you mentioned your standby RS dinners–what are they? I want recipes!) What do y’all EAT besides trendy ethnic takeout? What are you nostalgic for?