Only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart

When I'm a famous restaurateur, I hope to come out with a book of Mormon-themed & Word-of-Wisdom-friendly recipes. These dishes will approximate the tasty things we're not allowed as God's people without all the guilt. In other words, it's very much letter of law abiding. So far I've come up with the following items to be included:

  • In the Seasons Thereof (a seasonal fruit and vegetable guide, including a diatribe against canning)
  • White & Delightsome Forest Cake (all the decadence, none of the Kirsch)
  • Noli Me Tangerine tea
  • K'fear Not (non-alcoholic fermented yogurt)
  • G-Rated Fusion Fruit Juice (see here to catch this one)
  • Chai on a Mountain Top (without the black tea, natch)
  • Teacunmisu (lady fingers soaked in something that isn't rum, custard and a sprinkling of something that isn't espresso)

Any one else have ideas to include?

Even my palms are out of shape

Since this time two years ago, I have gained roughly 30 pounds. I'm not sure the cause of this increase in mass, but it probably has something to do with the fact that my sweet tooth requires a barrel for me to get from place to place. Maybe.

In order to counteract my inevitable expansion, I've taken to attempting to go the gym regularly. Notice that I'm not actually in the habit yet, but I am in the habit of trying. The main problem right now is that I work at 7.45 am. Which means, getting to the gym by 6.30 if I want it to be worth it. And, because I work someone between the boondocks and the back of beyond, such an early arrival at the gym means waking up before six am. The early morning and I do not get along. My bed rarely feels cozier than it does when my alarm goes off.

But the wee hours of the morning is not the only impediment to my aerobic endeavors. I'm also hideously out of shape. I get winded opening doors sometimes, so you can imagine how hard a treadmill is for me. I was swimming nearly daily when I was up in Canada, To be fair, I do have some respiratory problems, so it's not all just lack of practice. Fortunately, the gym I go to is one that is preferred by the elderly and/or equally infirm. When I'm there I feel downright hale. Until, of course, I notice that the octogenarians are using heavier weights on the machines than I am.

I made it out this morning and even got the one good elliptical machine, though I was a touch later than I'd like. I did my thing and showered (the shower facilities of this gym could be the subject of another post, but I'll just say this: I've never seen a spot more apt for fungal growths). When I entered my car I notice something odd: blisters. On my palms. I wasn't even going that hard this morning and I was only at it for about 25 minutes. Maybe if I'd ever done a day of work in my life this wouldn't have happened. Or maybe I should just take it as a sign and give up now before I seriously damage myself.

and now, for something vapid!

So, the last two posts were pretty long and basically boring. So, let's talk about something less serious, shall we? Like the prĂȘt-a-porter lines for this fall. I'm only partially joking. A few days back, in an attempt to find a bow tie for my nephew who is turning eight in just over a week, I was at the mall. As we know, I don't like the mall. But, I do like specialty neckware stores, so I really have little choice but to patronize my local commercial center.

I had no luck finding a bow tie for my nephew, as the only style they had for little kids were the kind you see at weddings, all shiny and solid colors. Not the best for every week apparel. But, can I just take a moment to put in a plug for Tie On One, a local store? For me, the tie is one last vestige of personality allowed to the man, especially since I hate French cuffs and refuse to wear most jewelry on principle. And, if you want an excellent selection of ties that are both gorgeous and more or less affordable, hit up Tie One On. They're also, hands down, the best place to buy bow ties.

But, haberdashery is not the focus here. The cardigan is. Apparently, button cardigans are in this fall, if we take South Towne Mall as a representative sample of what the moderately well-off hipster is wearing. For me, this is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it means I'll most likely be able to pick up a number of cardies for a song come spring, and I do love a bargain. On the other hand, the cardigans I wear as both as subculture identifier and practical accessory may cause people to think I'm some sort of couture poseur. I'm not cool or attractive enough to pretend like I was doing this whole open sweater thing before everybody else, despite the fact I was. Nor, it turns out, am I the type of person who simply looks in style when the weird things he does (like colored undershirts with oxfords) actually come in style. Fortunately, I'm not trying to impress anyone, so it doesn't really matter.

See, isn't my life the hardest ever?

making a name for myself

Last Sunday, I managed to cause my first kerfuffle in my singles ward. That it took over two month is either commendable or suggests that I'm losing my bite. It came about in Elders Quorum, where the topic of the week was the marriage lesson in the Spencer W. Kimball manual. This is always a sort of confusing subject to address in a singles ward, as none of the members nor the teacher are married. Usually, it devolves quite quickly into a discussion of why we should want to get married, how we should go about it and so on. Again, advice here must be taken somewhat skeptically, since if there were experts on this topic, they'd probably have put it into practice and therefore be ineligible to attend the ward.

So, the lesson started off in that direction and then the President (who was giving the lesson because of a failure of communication with his teachers) called on this new-ish guy in the ward. This guy was really keen to teach the lesson. I mean, REALLY keen. So, the President stepped aside to this brother's desire. This eager beaver started out by asking what our families have contributed to society. So, people made comments that ranged from inane (we're loved by our family) to traditional (they teach us values, discipline, how to interact with other people) and the ones that actually answered the question (my family produced a number of children who are now working). At this point, I raise my hand to ask, "Why do we need a family for us to learn these things or to have these impacts on society? I mean, we'd still know love and discipline and values if we were all raised on highly functioning communes. So, why families?"

You know your comment is heterodox when, before you've even finished framing the thought, half a dozen hands shoot up and the people raising them are practically falling off their chairs. Oh, you also know you're out in left field if four of those six people basically rephrase this idea: that's the way God likes it. Oh, come on, people, we can do better than that, surely. To be fair, the Deus volt argument is not without merit. Perhaps the only reason is because God's personal opinion. My problem with this approach is that there is no way, at least not that I've found, to really counter it. Especially for Mormons, a people so certain they know God's will that I honestly wonder how the term revelation can even be understood in the Church today.

Well, after these comments, the teacher asks if that answers my question. I'm honest and say, "Not to my satisfaction but we can move on." Which he does, to something about breaking a cycle of dysfunctional families and how if we all had strong families there wouldn't be any troubles in the world. I start shaking my head, thinking if he continues, he's veering dangerously close to getting a sigh from me. But he notices my head shaking and calls me on it.

"It's a true principle. How can you disagree with you? Do you not believe the principle?" Frankly, I don't. Just because families are happy and love each other doesn't mean that trouble evaporates. Life is way too complicated to be boiled down to the disintegration of the home as the source of all ills. When I share my opinion here, I get called Doubting Thomas by the teacher. Which probably suggests he's got pretty negative impressions of doubt, which is a shame.

Right after this lesson, which fizzled out shortly after my last disagreement due to time constraints, the counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency leans over to me and says, "Good comments. If you ever have any questions or want to talk about this some more, I'd be willing to help you understand it. I mean, seriously, any questions and I won't think less of you for them." Great. It's a very small step from this patronizing to project. I wonder if I'll actually finally be assigned home teachers or something. Oh well, at least people know me now as the apostate I am.

Later that day, I was fulfilling my calling as welcoming co-chair and one of the people we had to visit was the guy who taught this lesson. I don't want you to get the wrong impression, he was a very good teacher and took my statements entirely in stride with a laugh. So, he's not one of the strictest steadfasters. But we go to visit him and we're having a nice little chat, during which I've just told a very brief description of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Don't worry, I didn't implicate Brigham, but I didn't exactly clear him either. After this, this guy turns to me and says, "Can I ask you a tough question?" I'm suddenly gripped with a worry about what he's going to ask me. Maybe he's wondering what sin is keeping me from accepting the truth. Or perhaps he wants to know if I actually have a testimony or support the Brethren. Or maybe it's more secular and he wants to know if I've ever been diagnosed with some mental disorder. It's none of these. In fact, "are you an intellectual?" is not really what I'd consider a mind-bending query. I answered in the affirmative and he left it at that.

I guess there's worse things you could be considered than an intellectual. But not many, if you're a Mormon. I'll just have to be careful to not let anyone know I'm a Democrat, or a libertine, or a feminist. Wouldn't want to be called to repentance before I've even done anything, now would I?

better to marry than to burn, but try not to burn at all

Yesterday we had the obligatory annual chastity lesson. This differs from the annual chastity talk given some fifth Sunday by the singles ward bishop in only a few ways. Most notably, it takes quotes from some dead President of the Church out of context but pretends that they flow together (seriously, check out the footnoting next lesson) and tends to be much less uncomfortable for all parties involved. Plus, there's not much chance of being told to only buy a pony that catches your eye, if you know what I mean, brethren, as one high councilor once did in my ward at the Lord's University.

The lesson was pretty standard, with the exception of the guy who wondered why church leaders don't urge women to dress like pioneers and/or why the US doesn't enact Muslim-state style laws of morality. I am not making this up. He disparagingly compared Mormon women to Middle Eastern women and honestly thought that bonnets and prairie dresses were the better part. Let's just say that, should he ever start dating a girl in the ward, I will break my nonintervention rule to tell her to get the hell out and now! There was also a guy who very bravely shared how he had had trouble with the law of chastity in the past and that it can be "sweetest fruit you'll ever partake" but that it's not worth it. He's recently engaged and everything's on the up and up now. This kind of sincere, honest, personal approach to a topic which most people would prefer to present as so shameful and removed from any one present to allow for individual examples was amazing. That, I feel, is what church should actually be like.

The real point here, though, is the lust v. love distinction that always comes up in these lessons. We hear it over and over again. Lust is all about physical attraction and leads only to pain, suffering and pregnancy. While love, on the other hand, leads to joy, fulfillment and pregnancy. The issue I have is that this strays a little to close to the chewed gum/nailed board/handled white rose theory of sex. In other words, it's the "sex is disgusting and awful so save it for the one you love" school of thought. I'm bothered because crossing lines of chastity is not exclusively about lust, about women fondling for attention or men using women as playthings (actual phrases employed by President Kimball). Or, to crib another wording of his, love does not always fly out the door when lust sneaks in.

This view presents that love is love and lust is lust and ne'er the twain shall meet. But the way lust is defined makes it sound like all sexual feelings and actions are lustful. The logical conclusion is that love has no basis in the physical plane. Clearly it does and should. Basically, what we need is a more complex understanding of premarital sex. Let's start by ditching this whole notion of not mentioning PTs, shall we? There is good reason to not dwell on what you've done wrong in the past, but there's great danger in pretending like nobody who's not a craven, twisted loser has chastity problems. We need more members in the church like the brother who was willing to admit that he'd fallen and gotten back up. After all, isn't that the message that Christ died for, that we can be lifted no matter what we stumble on? While we're at it, we might want to create a position that harmonizes our position that you can be married in the temple to someone other than your legal spouse if divorce isn't possible in the country you live in but a man still gets excommed if your legal marriage is to another man and not a woman (see here). Because, frankly, our current position doesn't make much sense. Lastly, why does sleeping with someone you love before marriage mean that you're hurting them? Surely it's not that simple.

Now, despite my libertine views and lifestyle, I actually do believe that unrestrained sexuality leads to a whole host of problems and should best be avoided in most cases. And I can see some rationale behind teaching this way. For instance, how do you teach teenagers to really tell enduring connections and quick fixes apart? Or how can you allow for legal same-sex marriages to be tolerated but not solemnized in your temples? And what about all those grey areas of intimacy, like when kissing and holding enters necking and petting? The list could go on and on. But this area is particularly thorny. Shouldn't we take the time to address the underlying issues. For example, why is chastity so important? The only reason I can come up with is that it's a requirement for the kind of marriage that God wants to happen (a temple one for time and all eternity). Are there other reasons I'm missing?

I guess this falls into the same class as all other topics taught in the Church. I wish we were just a little more complex in our handling of these things. We are, after all, supposed to learn everything we can while we're here, not just the same thing over and over again.

What about poutine?

There is some debate about whether Canada has a culture. And, if it does, what parts of that culture are not just a reaction to their lumbering southern neighbor. I would like to think, though, that Canada has at least one or two classic recipes handed down from mother to daughter and cherished as either national dishes or family traditions. The editors of "Saveur", however, are not quite sure.


And here.

My main question, though, is why include a link at all (see the bottom of the page) if there are no recipes? Are the writers trying to mock Canada (both Anglophone & Francophone)? One must assume the dishes posted are only up for so long. Maybe there were once Canadian dishes. But, as for right now, Canada, you'll have to find something other than food to give us Americans a compelling idea to not de facto annex you. Well? We're waiting.

hot foods hot, cold food colds

I have this weird perversion. Now, don't fret, this blog is still work-safe reading, as this perversion has absolutely nothing to do with gonads. Rather, it's food-related. Here it is: I don't like hot food. And I don't mean spicy-hot, since the more a dish causes my orbicularis oris region to burn, the better. I mean temperature hot. I prefer my foods colder, ideally around room temperature. For some things, this isn't all that strange. Cold pizza is considered nice by large swaths of the population, as are certain Chinese leftovers. But fish sticks? tuna casserole? barbecued chicken? Clearly, there is something wrong with me.

When I was living alone up in Canada, I would often cook dinner about 4pm, just before going to work. Then I would eat a little bit of whatever I had made, just so that I wouldn't pass out at the reference desk or lose my wits when a guy at the train station offered to fight me for my tuque. But I would leave the remainder out on top of the stove for when I came home. I loved coming home to a pot of lukewarm spaghetti, some cold twice baked potatoes, or tepid beans. I'd even make and butter my toast in the morning before getting in the shower so it wouldn't be piping hot as I grabbed it and dashed out the door, late as ever for class.

I'm not sure what this preference stems from. Was I born this way? Is it a choice? Like all great nature v. nurture debates, we'll likely never know. Part of it surely comes from hating the way a microwave turns food all soggy and from being too lazy/incompetent to calculate how much food I need to cook so I'm not left with a week's worth of leftovers from every meal. What I do know is that I'm pretty lucky for not having contracted some hideous foodborne sickness. As all card-carrying food handlers know (and I was once one of that class), you're supposed to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and never ever just leave food sitting out. Maybe years of this habit and an already very iffy digestive system have caused me to be able to stomach these potential pathogens.

Oh, and it could be a lot worse. Like the case study I read in the sanitation and safety textbook used at my school. Apparently, an employee with diarrhea didn't wash his hands after using the bathroom. He then proceeded to mix an entire vat of buttercream frosting with his bare hands and arms. Estimated number of people infected: 500. Think about that next time you're eying that frosted sugar cookie. See, now lukewarm fish sticks don't sound so unappealing, do they?

Curses, foiled again!

I wish this subject line were witty and I was about to regale you tales of my creative use of aluminium. Like making hats or, better yet, depressing bathroom toys for my brood of children and all the other younguns in the trailer park. Sadly, this is not the case. Rather, I seem to have not lost my knack for ruining my own life. Despite having an advanced degree where I took whole courses on the organization of knowledge and learned to respect me some fonds, despite thinking the whole world should be indexed and given a controlled vocabulary AND despite my near neurosis about putting stacks in order of size and clothing by hue, I have managed to misplace a whole slew of electronic files. Not least of these was a half-finished blog entry about bathrooms cleaned by Mormons. Which is what I was actually hoping to complete and post this evening.

What's particularly galling for me is that, were this a physical document, I could riffle and shift until I found it. However, you can't really riffle through megabytes (unless you're really small and made out of binary code). So, I just keep opening all the files on my flash drive, hoping one of them will change. It hasn't happened yet, but hope springs, etc.

So, instead of humor, you get complaint. But isn't that what you've grown to expect from me? I'm off to drown my frustration with some Wii-playing.