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Blessings on the food

By Heather Oman

I hate ants. With a passion. Growing up in Southern California, our home was plagued with them, and it drove me crazy. There is nothing worse than pouring yourself a bowl of cereal, adding milk, and watching ant corpses bob to the surface. It was enough to make an 8 year old who loves her Fruit Loops weep.

So, you can imagine how much Emily Milner’s essay Daily Bread , her story about eating ant-ridden food in Ecaudor, stayed with me. Oh, how I shuddered.

Emily discusses how eating the food became a major part of her service as a missionary, as well as a topic for fervent prayer. It seems an interesting and unusual thing to pray about, really. Praying about food? As a missionary? Shouldn’t we pray for bigger things?

Of course the answer is that we pray for the things that are important to us in the moment, and if that happens to be eating food that the locals present as a sacrifice to the missionaries, so be it. More than the storytelling of this essay (which is excellent, of course. But all of us here at Segullah know that Emily rocks), this essay made me think again that the Lord is willing to bless us in all things, even when it involves the miniutae of our daily lives. The big and the small things are worthy of His notice, and if we are prepared to give to Him any trial we have, He is willing to take it. Even when that trial comes in the form of ants swimming in the lemonade.

Ok, now let’s share food stories. I have never served a mission, but I did spend a semester abroad in Germany, where I met many Africans. I spent many a Sunday afternoon in the company of one African, who almost always served us chicken mixed with something. I would help him prepare the food, and watch as he would handle raw chicken with his hands, and then touch everything else. It made my stomach turn to see him handle all the other food stuffs with his greasy salmonella-chicken fingers, and I once even meekly suggested that raw chicken can carry disease, and was he sure he wanted to prepare the vegetables on the same surface as the chicken?

“Oh, that’s not true, ” he said. “Raw chicken does not have disease. Only eggs carry that. Chicken is fine”, he would tell me, and proceed to lick his wet fingers to emphasize his point.

It sometimes made me nauseous to do it, but I ate his food, only because I knew he had emptied his cupboards for the feast. And perhaps he was right about the disease, as I was never sick eating his food. Or perhaps the prayers of the righteous are heard after all.

Can you relate to Hermana Emily’s food plight? Has a fervent prayer gotten you through an unsavory culinary situation? Have your prayers been answered in other ways involving seemingly small but significant events? And do you have some tried and true tips for keeping ants out of cereal?

As for me, I’ve decided Tupperware is my friend.

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

11 thoughts on “Blessings on the food”

  1. We weren't actually allowed to eat with people on my mission in Kiev, Ukraine, but I remember a couple incidents when we were coerced into eating something, which was usually pretty nasty. I guess that was our punishment for breaking the rule. One woman had a houseful of stray dogs and cats and she made us eat a kind of stuffed pepper, but instead of it being stuffed with rice and ground beef, various animal hair had also made it into the mix. I took one bite and couldn't eat more. I still shudder to think about it. Oh, and the time I ate blood sausage is up there on the list too.

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  2. I served in Spain, so in the first place we rarely got invited to eat by the members and in the second place most of it was really quite tasty. But of course there were those times that it wasn't. Like the blood sausage, the undercooked omelettes, the burned (black) rice, etc.

    There was a sweet Ecuadorian immigrant family that fed us once a week. They were poor and would give us things like chicken livers; I tried and prayed hard to eat that. I felt so bad one week because she served us fried whole sardines. They had eyes and little crunchy bones. I had a native Spaniard companion and she was happily eating her fish. I was trying so hard, and the poor sister feeding us noticed and aplogized for feeding us food that Americans don't usually like. I felt horrible for being so spoiled. There was also another lady with a horribly dirty house who fed us scary snacks with hair on them.

    I also prayed that I wouldn't throw up from eating so much. For a lot of people their idea of feeding the missionaries is completely stuffing them and getting mad if they stop eating.

    And as far as praying for little things, I prayed for a new dresser last year. We had one that someone had given us free for our kids, but it was falling apart. Literally, the drawers kept falling out. Finally one day a drawer fell on my daughter's foot and I got mad. So I prayed about it because I didn't know what to do. That evening my husband came home and we both felt like we should check Ikea. Normally even Ikea is out of our student budget, but we drove down there and found the perfect dresser on clearance!

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  3. The worst food I've faced is boiled horse innards at a funeral. It's a rather expensive delicacy in Kyrgyzstan. But since the women were eating first and the men were coming soon, everyone was supplied with a plastic bag to take home the leftovers. So we packed up the leftovers (and there were plenty) and left them where we knew someone else with greater appreciation would find them.

    Prayer got me through a Word of Wisdom crisis in the Middle East once. And through a host of other little experiences that aren't worth recounting except for me to add them all together and see the hand of the Lord.

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  4. I've never traveled to foreign countries but I've had several culinary nightmares pass my gullet. One Thanksgiving my BIL's MIL had us over and the food was… interesting. The grape juice was homegrown and very bitter. There was a jello salad served that I still, to this day, feel pride for having eaten without throwing up. It was an unflavored gelatin that had everything under the sun in it (I call it floor sweeping salad because it looked, and tasted, as if she has swept her floor and used it to fill her jello).

    As for prayers. While giving a VT message on prayer the sister we were visiting said that she and her husband would sometimes argue about what to pray about. She said she felt silly asking the Lord for things like help finding the remote control. I told her that I used to think that but then I realized that sometimes the little things have a big impact on us (I've been close to cussing and get very cranky when I loose my keys) and the Lord cares about our mental well being because it affects us spiritually as well. She called me two days later and said that she finally prayed abut her remote and found it instantly and she said that she was so happy and finally understood what I had been talking about.

    My kids also have a very good testimony about prayer because of all the small things we've prayed for and been given.

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  5. Thanks for this, Heather!

    I remember writing this I wondered which meals to include… I neglected to mention a thick, gooey drink, with oatmeal in it, that was like drinking snot… or the time we got served three huge Good Friday meals by accident. I have never been so full in my entire life.

    But what I think is different about America than the the rest of the world is that we (or maybe just me) seriously don't get food. All my life I've had this abundance, and it was hard for me to appreciate how grateful I should be for food. It's still hard… if I went back to Ecuador I would need to get used to the food all over again.

    As to praying over the little things–I absolutely believe that God will bless me in the little things, but even more than that, that he will bless my kids. A lost toy is a crisis to them; it's a big thing, and He sees that.

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  6. Oh I pray for the little things. When my baby was first born I often prayed for long naps. For her and for me. I prayed about how to help her sleep longer at night. And even smaller I often pray for the little things I lose. I had the idea of keeping a record of all the times I prayed to find my lost keys and then found them. I haven't started it but I still think it's a good idea…over a lifetime I know I would have hundreds of entries and a steady testimony of prayer. Sorry no food stories.

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  7. My mother is from Lithuania, my father from Belarus, I've eaten plenty of weirdo food. I try not to think about it.

    But praying for keys? Praying for lost shoes? For directions to get un-lost? That I've done. And I know the Lord cares. There's simply too much peace in what should be a chaotic life for it to be any different.

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  8. Good one… I have lived/travel extensively in Russia and Africa…. so i have seen/eaten it all….. It is always the poor people that would offer us food (and usually, poor and unsantitary/lots of pets went hand in hand).

    I served a mission in England where the food was pretty good (and we were fed by LOTS of Africans who have the best food), but some of it was interesting (and the stuff that I still miss today). A big favorite was what they called "spaghetting bolonaise". It was noodles, topped with minced mutton and topped with ketchup. Not gag inducing, but INTERESTING. Often, they didn't drain the water from the noodles, so the pices of mutton would float in the water among the noodles. Yummy.

    Another thing that they did was eat their salad with "salad creme". Runny mayo. And they didn't store it in the fridge. No matter how many times we asked, we were told that it didn't need to go in the frige… they also wash their dishes in washing up liquid and don't rinse them (you don't need to, is what we were told). It is funny how each culture has their "things". I won't even being the list of things that the African's though were weird about us….

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  9. I have never been out of the country, however, from what I have read, we here in the U.S. are completely over the top with variety in regard to our choices for meals. Perhaps this is part of our being finicky or wary or even bored.

    Friends of ours have traveled extensively and they said after a few days in Asia, they were very tired of rice with every meal.

    From another view, our daughter has been exposed to a lot of Western European fare and after eating those meals feels like everything in the U.S. is watered down, waxy, or plain dull.

    Both resulted in cases of boredom in the end. Who knows? I remember reading Marjory Hinckley was in favour of praying, a lot! She told stories of her praying over the soup as it cooked so that it wouldn't boil, but simmer.

    I agree that prayer is a great resource! That said, I am also one who believes that God will not do something for us that we can do ourselves. : > Like mom said: "Pray like it's all up to Him. Work like it's all up to you."

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  10. Love this post! From my "please bless the hands that burnt the buns" prayer, offered accidently but aloud at some Young Women function when I was a young Beehive, to my secret "please bless that there will be enough food" and "please bless us not to get sick from this ill-prepared food" prayers offered on many occasions I shall not discuss publicly, I've said lots of prayers over food.

    But my most heartful prayer over food was probably a prayer of thanks for the sacrifice of a young Vietnamese father and his daughter who had lovingly prepared what I'm sure was their week's worth of groceries into a single meal just for my companion and I while we were servig in Belgium. Like bek said, it was always the poor people who would offer food–and sometimes it was all they had. I've been grateful many times for generosity extended towards me, but there is no generosity quite like someone offering you all they have.

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