Monday, January 4, 2010

Utah - January 4, 1896

I guess I don't think of Utah without thinking about Mormons. Before I moved to Arizona in 1990 I had never met a Mormon. I knew little about them, such as they have a really cool temple that looks like Oz that you can see from the Washington, D.C. beltway, and that the Osmonds were Mormon. I had learned a bit more from reading a book in the mid 1980s - a memoir writen by a Mormon woman who discovered that her husband was gay. She divorced him and then he contracted AIDS, and she took care of him until he died. I cannot recall the title or author of the book now. So, anyway, I moved to Arizona and I met a few Mormons and became friends with an ex-Mormon from Salt Lake City who was enrolled in library school with me. She filled me in a bit more on the mysticism of the religion, always with an editorial that it was "dumb" (she especially thought this about the underwear). After we graduated she moved back to SLC and James and I went to visit her there. We wanted to visit Temple Square and she insisted on going with us. As soon as we got there she was ready to go, saying it was "dumb", but we wanted to stay and learn some more about the religion and made her go through the buildings and grounds with us. She grumbled the entire time. I remember being very impressed with the sound demonstration in the Tabernacle. The tour guide tore a piece of paper in half and we could hear it in the back of the room. No microphones were used. Utah also has some great National Parks - Zion, Bryce and Arches are the ones we've been to.

I picked another Mormon memoir - Secret Ceremonies by Deborah Laake-  for my book, and deliberately chose a movie that did not have a Mormon theme  - Utah with Roy Roger and Dale Evans. It was actually my second time reading Secret Ceremonies: A Mormon Woman's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond. James had bought me an autographed copy in 1993 for my birthday. Laake "tells all" in this book. Not just about her own failed marriages (one to a Mormon, and two to "Gentiles"), and struggles with mental health, but also all the sacred rituals of the Mormon Temple. When she took her vows as a bride, she made pledges not just to her husband but to the church as well, to keep all the rituals a secret. What I found most interesting reading the book this time around, that I don't remember noticing the first time, is that first section, in which she describes her life as a student at Brigham Young University, she hardly mentions her classes. The focus is on the boys she dates, and her courtship and eventual engagement to a man she did not love. Like many of her cohorts at BYU she married very young and dropped out of school. This was really only true of the women. The men continued their studies after marriage. I don't know if this is still typical today.

Laake mentions libraries at least four times in her book. I was especially tickled with the first one : "I looked forward extravagantly to devotionals, which were weekly occasions when the bowling alley and the library and other outposts of idling wer shut down so that students would not be tempted to stay away." Another makes the library almost into a sinister partner in a friend's very bad marriage: "[Hannie] didn't enjoy sex very much, and so Dickie read aloud to her in bed from sex manuals he'd checked out at the university library, as though the key to passion was memorizing the precise names for genitalia. Hannie said that, if she seemed to be dozing, Dickie would...bounce up and down on the mattress...once, when she fell asleep anyway, he took her by the shoulders and pushed her skull sharply into the headboard."

Utah was a musical/comedy/western. I am glad it was only 80 minutes long because I don't know how much longer I could have stood the bad acting and lousy plot. I did enjoy the singing - crooning, really. Dale Evans plays a showgirl who travels to Utah from Chicago to sell a ranch she inherited in order to invest in a show. Roy Rogers, works on the ranch and doesn't want to see it sold, lest it go to sheep herding, rather than the manly art of cattle herding. Evans arrives with an entourage of show girls, it is unclear why they all had to come, but they balanced nicely with all the farm hands. Rogers attempts to trick Evans into thinking the ranch is worthless by having her stay on another property with a run down shack. She somehow believes that a 60 acre ranch is made completely worthless by the building on it. When she sells the ranch for next to nothing Rogers saves the day after all. No matter what the cowboys are doing their clothes are always band box clean and there is nary a smudge on their faces.

What I learned about Utah food is that the official state cooking pot is the Dutch oven (I don't own one, so I did not prepare anything in one) and that the state snack food is green jell-o (yuck). I also learned that dipping sauce for french fries is kind of a big deal there so I tried to make some in the basic 1 part catsup; 2 parts mayo recipe I found. I wasn't sure I would like it, but one of the reasons for the blog is to try new things. I gave it a fair shot, but I was right, I didn't like it. My 12-year-old daughter was even more reluctant to try it and finally took the tiniest taste as a favor to me. She said, and I quote, "I will absatively, posalutely never try even the tiniest bit of that again ever." She further quoted the part in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" about "between you and a seasick crocodile, I'd pick the seasick crocodile." She also mentioned she didn't like the color, which looked like "puke".  I also baked a zucchini/banana/walnut bread with a recipe I found on the Mormon Foodie website. The recipe mentions sugar, but it is not listed in the ingredients. I used 1/2 a cup. My daughter and I both give that one a thumbs up.


  1. So the girl was not a fan of the sauce, I see. Very literary and thorough was her rebuke!

    I cannot believe that I got you that book over 16 years ago -- gadzooks!

    Two things I will add to the description of our visit to SLC: One was the odd case of the America's Most Wanted fugitive captured in a local restaurant. The second is our friend's constant reference to all "gentile" doings in the city as "underground," a term we thought at least two decades out of date. Not in Salt Lake, she insisted.

    And one thing to the discussion of BYU: At academic conferences in recent years, I have been impressed by the school's focus on teaching and learning, and I have seen men and women equally involved. Probably still not exactly the school for me, but I think it has changed to some degree.

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