An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Food Storage for Dummies

Evangelicals and Mormons share millenarian views, but I rather prefer the evangelicals’ notion of the righteous being raptured into heaven during the apocalypse to the Mormon idea of riding it out—shielded from the wrath of the Seven Horsemen by personal righteousness and ample food storage. I never expected my personal righteousness to offer me much protection from the great burning, but I’ve also lost confidence in food storage being useful in the event of catastrophic floods, earthquakes, volcanoes or other natural disasters.

This week my visiting teachers brought me a cookbook prepared by the Stake Relief Society Presidency titled “What Do I Do with My Basic Food Storage.” The contents were nearly identical to those in food storage pamphlets I’ve received in RS for the past four decades. It even began with a warning from Ezra Taft Benson (who died 16 years ago) that food storage “may be as essential to our temporal salvation today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.”

The book listed basic food items and amounts one person might be expected to consume in a month—wheat, white flour, white rice, quick oats, macaroni, beans, sugar, powdered milk, oil, shortening, and salt. Recipes for using these items included such appetizing dishes as “Lumpy Dick”—flour stirred into boiling water, cooked into a thick paste and served with milk and sugar. “Graveyard Stew” was another Depression Era goody—bread toasted (or fried in shortening if the toaster gives out), salted and peppered, crumbled in a bowl, and doused with milk. After reading the recipes, I think I would lower the amount of food a normal person might be expected to consume from this list.

Reading the food storage cookbook was a nostalgia kick for me. It took me back to the Cold War and my attempts to use the food storage George and I had purchased with scarce money. We discovered that TVP (textured vegetable protein) bears no resemblance to meat. I even tried making a meat substitute from wheat. I mixed whole wheat flour with water and kneaded it for at least a week to develop the gluten, then washed the starchy part down the drain, tore little chunks from the rubbery residue, and baked them. I removed a pan of what looked like cooked dog poop from the oven. Despite what my RS cookbook said, there wasn’t enough beef bouillon in our city to flavor the beige lumps that floated like dead sponges in our vegetable soup.

 I ground can after can of wheat into flour which I baked into hard, dry lumps of 100% whole wheat bread. Unlike the gluten meat substitute, we could eat the bread–but without enjoyment. Soy beans were a greater trial. I cooked them for days without softening them enough to chew. I tried soaking them for a week, then pulverizing them in the blender. I ended up with what looked like a lumpy milk shake, but could think of no way to turn it into any kind of food.

I rather think my attempts at food storage use are responsible for most of my children leaving the church fold once they got old enough to make choices different from their parents. My best advice to the question of what to do with basic food storage is to find someone who raises chickens or pigs and donate the cans of emergency rations in exchange for some eggs and bacon.

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