[D]elect[able] Ladies

To get you in the mood to celebrate this weekend’s anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society ………. kitchen tips from the General Relief Society Presidents of the Church. Commemorate the great and courageous women that are part of our history by hosting an ice-cream social of your own, possibly with a brief reader’s theater.

Comments

  1. I wish there were better ways to celebrate the great power and majesty of the hearth without demeaning those who sustain it. I hear a brilliant graduate student is preparing a prospectus for a dissertation to treat the tensions and power in the kitchen/domestic spirituality. For those interested, Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) has written some really wonderful short fiction treating the salvific and transformative power of the meal (“The Supper at Elsinore” and “Babette’s Feast” are the best known), and the same brilliant graduate student has taught a course at Boston University treating these topics.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    smb, too true. Poor, poor timing is partly to blame I suppose in this case.

  3. smb,
    There’s a whole genre (subgenre?) devoted to food and cooking. A lot of it–the stuff I like–is “foodie” rather than homemaker, but between Martha Stewart, Food Network, foodie blogs and podcasts, celebrity chefs, etc., being into cooking has never been hipper.

    My reading is more magazines, although you’ll probably find some home & hearth in the annual Best Food Writing 200_. There’s a lot of nonfiction out there on the salvific and transformative power of the meal, too.

  4. Yeah, we once had an MFK Fisher evening (potluck with everyone reading a favorite passage) at our house and have wonderfully fond memories of it. A shame that Steve’s linked story didn’t invoke more of this rich context. For those really interested Levi-Strauss is considered key to this anthropological literature, with his treatment of Cooked and Raw, there’s a wonderful treatment of medieval female saints (a response to the rather silly “they were all anorexics” theme that had existed prior to that) called Holy Feast, Holy Fast (which I used for a Priesthood lesson one week), and for good fun, there’s a book on what’s “good to eat” and “good to think” and ecologically deterministic treatment of kosher and Hindu beef-aversions called the Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig. (PS this is all stuff I’ve learned from aforementioned brilliant grad student.)

  5. smb, I think I may have met that same great grad student of which you speak.

    The reason I think this is totally useless is that what is her point? That all these women cooked? Big deal. Some of these women liked entertaining too and so they made food as part of that. Again, is that of interest? Seriously who would brag about making a sugar loaf or about having serious gourmet skills because they organized an Ice Cream Sunday?

    I love cooking and feel brilliant and creative while I do it. I’m sure people who have eaten my food have felt the Spirit (it’s really that good)but these women don’t seem to be doing the same thing that I love.

  6. I don’t know about that Amri. I am all in favour of creating family Sunday traditions or favourite foods. I think the problem of this piece is that it re-casts women who are set apart by God’s prophet to “expound scripture and teach” as Betty Crocker.

    In my own personal ponderings this week, I have been reading about the sustaining of Bathsheba Smith — she was the first Relief Society President ever to be sustained at General Conference. Sister Wells wrote, “It was a very grand and imposing spectacle to witness, to see quorum after quorum of the holy priesthood and finally the whole congregation rise to their feet and raise the right hand.” I like learning about the more human or personal side of church leaders,and I do belief that food can have a sacred or holy nature, but the week leading up to the Relief Society Commemoration I want the grand vision … I want to envision Bathsheba sustained by the whole church, not sugar loaf.

  7. Once upon a time, I went to a church where one of the deacons – a man, not a woman – spent every Saturday afternoon making our Eucharistic bread. He mixed it by hand, he kneaded it by hand, and when you tasted it, you understood the phrase “the bread of heaven”. I swear you could taste both his faith and his love for the congregation in it; the baking was an act of worship for him. It was dense, salty, and rich.

    I’ve always wondered why we Mormons glorify domestic roles for women, but we don’t include worship-related activities in those roles – no, instead it’s all about the sugar loaf.

  8. No, I’m right there with you Kris. I wholeheartedly support family traditions and favorites that are focused on food. It’s just that the info presented on the link doesn’t show them investing in the creativity of cooking but just that they cooked. Considering gender roles, there is nothing notable about that to me at all. Like you said they are notable because they are called to expound and teach scripture etc. So it is demeaning like you say, but to me it’s also mostly worthless as research to understand these women as Relief Society presidents.

  9. Kristine says:

    I’m very happy to celebrate the power of the hearth, and the labor and gifts of those who tend it. However, we call General Relief Society Presidents to do something else! By celebrating their domesticity, rather than their public work, we reinforce the message that women are only allowed to excel at homemaking. Worse yet, we come perilously close to suggesting that that is all they are capable of. To ignore the spectacular humanitarian achievements of Amy Brown Lyman, or Bathsheba Smith’s rich testimony and understanding of priesthood power Kris mentions above is to do violence to their legacy. And I choose that rhetoric deliberately. I really think that Peterson’s article is violently anti-woman and anti-Mormon in its denial of women’s access to and obligation to exercise spiritual power and be a force for righteousness in the whole world, not just in the &#*&*#$! kitchen.

    (I’ve waited all day to comment, in hopes that I’d be less angry, but it’s not working. I just keep getting angrier–if I wait till tomorrow, my keyboard will melt!)

  10. Amen — fellow sister “Kristine with a K”!

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Are all Kris-es incredibly smart, angry and RIGHT ON?

  12. Amen squared.

  13. Didn’t read the links – and after reading Kristine’s comment I’m not likely to! But the title did make me think of a blog post that Beijing pointed me to last month. It’s by a Catholic chef, and it’s about finding God in all we do. Good stuff.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks for the link, Ann. That’s more like what we ought to have from the Church Correlation Committee (Materials Evaluation).

  15. Stephanie says:

    Wow, Kristine (and others). Re: 9, I was a little taken aback by the vitriol and (I choose this retoric deliberately) arrogance of that post. Celebrating domesticity does not preclude the other contributions the women made. Indeed, the article makes reference to the other aspects of their lives and is taken from a book that (appears to me from the other comments made in the article) does honor these women for their “experiences, strengths, and abilities.” With the domestic side of their lives being not so widely known there is nothing wrong with a short article highlighting that aspect of their lives. Repeat, it was a short article; it had a certain slant. In my humble opinion, the anger, hypersensitivity and hyperbole shown in that post were a little out of place.
    For those of you who decided not to read the links associated with the original post–don’t worry, read the article, you will see that it is harmless enough.

  16. “you will see that it is harmless enough”

    Like the Relief Society of today and women in the Church in general.

  17. Stephanie says:

    Steve, kind of a broad generalization. Not altogether untrue, however. Nor bad.

  18. Stephanie, of course not! Wear the label with pride.

  19. Stephanie says:

    Heaven forbid! We have been challenged by the Prophet to avoid all forms of pride. And a label is so plain. I will, instead, as a Righteous Mother in Zion, make it into a beautiful corsage which I shall wear with humility.

  20. Kristine says:

    Stephanie, the domestic side of their lives is not widely known. If their public lives were widely known and celebrated, it would be a different thing entirely to celebrate their domestic lives. The public side of their lives, however, is NOT widely known. If you ask 10 women in the church to list 3 of Amy Brown Lyman’s most important humanitarian achievemnets, I seriously doubt they could do it. I doubt they know who Amy Brown Lyman is. In that context, devoting whatever tiny amount of attention we’re giving these women to their domestic accomplishments is, in fact, a violent repudiation of what they stood for and cared about. Moreover, this violence is performed in the service of our current ideological fascination with the nuclear family, which these women by and large did not share–they had a broader vision of Zion, and we also do violence to that vision by ignoring it and trying to domesticize it.

    But kudos to you for standing up to my vitriol. I know my view is strongly stated, and it deserves to be strongly argued with, if you’ve got arguments.

    (ps–I don’t like the book, either)

  21. Stephanie, thanks for the encouragement, but I don’t read Meridian. I don’t want my head to explode.

  22. Kristine: Where are the celebrations of couples and parents who were devoted to hearth and home? Where are the celebrations of women who found joy in being a mother and a wife who didn’t have a large contribution to the greater social network except through the amazing family contributions? I see an amazing attack on the value of committing to be with children and for the view that the only real value is outside the home in our society in general. I don’t want to deny any person, man or woman, the recognition for amazing accomplishments outside the home; but I believe we systematically undervalue the really valuable conribution of loving and parenting and creating stability in the home.

  23. Kristine says:

    Blake, it’s true that American society does this; the Church, not so much… I have a fuller response in mind, but (in an irony not at all lost on me!) I can’t write it until later today because I’m busy tending to butternut squash puree and lemon-ginger pound cake for a party I’m hosting tonight, and taking care of my three small children who are home from school today…

  24. Kristine, you are violently repudiating all of your important humanitarian acts by discussing your puree, poundcake and three small children.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    Blake: “I see an amazing attack on the value of committing to be with children and for the view that the only real value is outside the home in our society in general.”

    Blake, you don’t see that here, in any event. I can understand your frustration, but celebrating the everyday joys of domesticity and the hearth is not a particularly weak point for mormons. So when you say “we,” I think the pronoun is misplaced.

  26. Steve: I don’t. I think that for all of the lip service given to these values, the realities of what “we” truly value is manifested by where we spend our time. Kudos to Kristine for poundcake. I’m home cooking breakfast together with the kids — we always come up qith a concoction. My wife doesn’t like breakfast so we give her a pass.

  27. Steve Evans says:

    Blake, does she just not like to eat in the morning? Or does she hate breakfast foods as a rule? The first is understandable; the second is unpardonable sin.

    p.s. to the Snarker: well played, good sir. That was my equivalent of the Dean Scream.

  28. Extreme Dorito: trust me, my lasagna and pound cakes are acts of humanitarian service!

  29. So, what I meant to say was…

    We give women complicated double messages about what we value, both in the world and in the Church. The world has the extremes of 2nd wave feminism as well as plenty of backlash against the achievements of that feminism, and the more moderate “Third Wave” that tries to support women’s choices in both domestic and public roles. The church had a tiny, gentle little 2nd swell (maybe just a ripple!) feminism in the 70s & early 80s, a tidal wave of backlash against that little movement, and no discernible 3rd wave is on the horizon. In that context, one in which the stories of women’s lives in the church are almost completely unknown to most members, introducing the General Relief Society Presidents by way of their domestic adventures, rather than, for instance, with a story about the silk-worm industry they tried, their contributions to the war effort with grain storage, their founding, funding, and administration of a major hospital in SLC, their experiences with priesthood blessings and gifts of the Spirit, their contributions to the colonization and civilizing of the Great Basin, etc., is a dramatic distortion. It reifies the extremely circumscribed roles we now want Mormon women to play and projects that smallness back onto women who lived large and dreamed of grand prospects for the Kingdom of God. When we now also “proclaim” that gender is eternal, I think there are potentially significant theological consequences involved in losing sight of the less rigidly constructed roles women have played in the church in the past.

    And there are personal consequences as well–most of the young LDS women I know feel that they have to find models for their ambitions outside of the church; they don’t have any understanding at all of the magnificence of their foremothers in the Kingdom. “Queen and Priestess” can’t mean anything to them if what they see and hear preached is Helpful Maker of Casseroles. HMoC is a really, really good start, and we should teach our daughters to want to be that–the world is in truly desperate need of more casseroles. (I feel the need to note that I am being utterly sincere!) But that is the place to start, not to end, and I fear that far, far too much of what we say and write about Mormon women ends here.

    Telling history this way is violent in the way that footbinding was violent–well-intentioned, borne out of deeply felt longings for well-tended homes and hearths, but crippling to women’s bodies and spirits and, therefore, ultimately destructive of home and hearth as well. *Whole* women make the best mothers, wives, aunts, friends, and Relief Society Presidents.

  30. Kristine, why cant women in the church have their lemon-ginger pound cake and eat it too?

  31. V. nicely said Kristine.

    Here’s my other problem with this representation of these women: did they like cooking? Was it a defining characteristic of them? Is it something they hoped they passed down to their children? Then I say, go for it. Tell us about that aspect of their womanhood but if it was a mundane task that just had to happen everyday then it diminishes who they are and what they believed in. I change my underwear everyday, but it’s more a mundane thing that needs to be done everyday not because it’s something that gets me excited (though I do believe in daily underwear changes). If I am remembered a few generations from now for just being a woman who changed her underwear I’d have my feelings hurt. Plus I’d be boiled down to something that was socially appropriate rather than something I really loved.

  32. Kristine-

    Consider the source.

    It’s a terrible article, all the way around. I agree with you wholeheartedly that a celebration of what great cooks these women are, is, in a word, lame. Even the way they celebrated the domestic arts was lame. Quoting somebody saying that Elaine Jack is “an excellent cook”? Saying that Emma had to deal with a big table? How about recipes these women used? How about traditions they established, other than the cliche “Sunday dinners around the table” and handing out candied apples to people toilet papering their lawn? How about their own reactions to food, how they served others through with food (Emma giving more than she had to new members arriving in Nauvoo, etc, etc), the power of community that was found in the Nauvoo mansion? How about NOT a quite snippet of all the women, which makes them all look less like powerful women of faith, and more like characatures of themselves?

    I don’t have quite the visceral reaction you did, I just thought it was sort of half baked, all the way around (no pun intended, of course).

  33. Steve Evans says:

    Heather: “it was sort of half baked, all the way around”

    grooooooooooooaaaannnnnnnnnnn………..

  34. Kristine,

    Not to be contrarian or anything (Heavens, no), but . . .

    Of course a relatively short article, focusing on baking skills, isn’t going to delve into politics or whatever else. And really, why should it? Why not allow for some discussion of how nicely Elaine Jack (or whoever else) cooks? Hell, if I spend time putting together a nice meal, and if it tastes good on a regular basis, then dammit, I’d like some recognition for my [skill / talent / beginner's luck].

    And I _do_ blog about cooking; Jim F. blogs about cooking; DKL, of all people, blogs about cooking. And I daresay I know a highly literate, feminist-minded Bostonian woman who occasionally makes comments about her lasagna that are designed to invoke violations of the tenth commandment. (The coveting “anything else” clause, that is, meaning the lasagna — not the “wife” clause!)

    Which is all a roundabout way of saying — there’s nothing wrong with the article itself. Nothing. Zero. It’s _just fine_ to celebrate Elaine Jack’s cooking.

    The problem is really the lacuna in which the article resides. It’s fine to praise Abe Lincoln’s cooking because we also praise _other things_ about Lincoln.

    So . . . how exactly do we solve that problem, in the context of the article? Do we add a disclaimer to every article that praises a woman for a traditional feminine virtue or accomplishment?

    “Disclaimer: This article will not mention these women’s accomplishments in the fields of literature, art, science, sociology, law, politics, or music. This omission is intended to preserve the thematic integrity of the article and its emphasis on one aspect of these women’s lives, and also because the author has a word limit. This article makes no representation, either express or implied, that any of these women did not achieve substantial success in any particular other area of life.”

    Would get a bit tedious, no?

    Or, we declare a moratorium on the writing of any feminine-y articles about women, until we’re satisfied that some level of broader gender equality has been reached, and that no one will wrongly imply that these women are _only_ good at being cooks.

    “So, you were the greatest cook of your generation? Sorry, sister. We can’t talk about that, until the great feminist unconsciousness gives the okay to mention women and cooking in the same sentence.”

    Or, we . . . what?

    Well, we tell more stories. This story is fine, as long as it’s not the only one being told. And if it is — well, then we get off of our collective ass and we tell a few stories of our own.

    “You think that Amy Brown Lyman’s cooking is nice? Wait till you hear about her efforts to feed the hungry during the war.” “You like these stories about cooking? Here, let me lend you my copy of a little book called Women of the Covenant. . .” And so forth.

    Thank Meridian for their article, and suggest that they follow up with a series of mini-bio’s of great LDS women. And/or, start such a series yourself. (That would be a great blog series — hint, hint.)

    Because the problem really is not that we’re talking about Amy Brown Lyman’s kitchen — it’s just that we’re not talking _enough_ about other things.

  35. Kristine says:

    Nope, Kaimi, not buying it. I agree that we should have more of the other stuff, but until we do, then publishing articles like this is actively harmful. People who don’t remember Elaine Jack will think, “oh, isn’t she the one who was an excellent cook?” instead of “oh, she’s the one who started a worldwide literacy program that was astonishingly effective, given the small amount of resources devoted to it and the entirely volunteer nature of the operation.” It’s wrong to contribute to that. It’s wrong for the church not to have asked Janet Peterson (and paid her!) to do a series for the front page of the website, instead of digging up some obscure reader’s theater from a few years ago and printing it separately in the RS section (because, you know, men shouldn’t have to be bothered with this stuff). The lacuna exists not because a couple of lame hack bloggers are lazy, but because the institution tolerates (and at least passively encourages) the lack. The fact that someone who serves on the curriculum committee doesn’t have a burning sense of mission about telling the real history of Mormon women points to an institutional problem, not just an individual preference or a little editorial quirk.

    Man, I am still *really* mad. Feel free to recalibrate your rhetorical heat shields as necessary.

  36. Julie M. Smith says:

    Kristine, you aren’t alone on this one.

  37. Kaimi, think about this in context of some other hurtful and reductive stereotype. Would it be appropriate to write a major Black History Month piece about how much various influential African-Americans liked fried chicken and watermelons? Even if you could find a set of, say, five historically-significant people who fit that category, wouldn’t such a publication risk reinscribing hateful and denigrating images of African-Americans — and obscuring the genuine contributions of the subjects of the article? Perhaps one day when women are no longer caricatured (by anyone), the article we’re discussing might be acceptable. But in the meanwhile, it reinforces too much negativity.

  38. Stephanie says:

    Great comment Kaimi

    There is enough talent here to write (and not just on a blog that very few will read) about these exceptional women in a way that will inspire and inform. Don’t just complain about something someone has published–that is counterproductive to what you are trying to communicate. Do something better.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    Kaimi: “if I spend time putting together a nice meal, and if it tastes good on a regular basis, then dammit, I’d like some recognition for my [skill / talent / beginner’s luck].”

    Kaimi, you seem to be taking care of that aspect by yourself just fine.

    Your comment is just…. wrong. It is wrong in its evaluation of the article on its own merits, wrong in evaluating the context, wrong in what you think the problem is, and wrong in your proposed solution. I can only assume that you wrote your remarks just to try and get a rise out of people.

    Like Kristine, I believe that articles such as this Meridian one are indeed actually harmful and have a negative impact on the role of women in the Church. It reminds us that women are, at heart, utterly servile domestic creatures regardless of their rank and role in history. For you to chalk this up (as Stephanie did) as something merely harmless, a trifle, is to completely miss the point and become in effect an adversary to women.

    The lacuna doesn’t just ‘exist’ — it was created and is maintained by people like Peterson (or, I sadly now presume by association, like yourself) who find it easier, less controversial, and somehow more ‘ladylike’ to presume we already know how great these women were, so let’s stick to the fluff pieces. To suggest as you do that KHH’s raw feminism would be a damper on all good cooking articles, forcing disclaimers everywhere, is ridiculous — not only because the idea of their necessity is laughable on its face, but because perhaps people like Peterson should be deterred from writing them.

  40. JNS,

    The problem is that the article isn’t the equivalent of watermelon and fried chicken.

    A lot of women (and men) _like_ cooking. There’s a real degree of skill involved. And yes, there’s a harmful perception among some that this is the only skill that women have or should have.

    So it’s more like talking about athletic accomplishments of African Americans. If all that anyone says about Blacks is how good some individuals are at basketball, then we reinforce negative stereotypes.

    But the solution is not to talk _less_ about Michael Jordan; it’s to talk _more_ about Colin Powell or Barack Obama.

  41. Just to add some flavor to this discussion, especially on the point about how unknown these women are:

    A member of the Relief Society President in my ward recently approached the bishopric and asked if we could take down all of the portraits of the former RS presidents that hang in the RS room. She said that the sisters found them “creepy.”

  42. Kaimi, the thing is, this is really more like a celebration of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation that only discusses Colin Powell’s hoops skills.

  43. “The lacuna doesn’t just ‘exist’ — it was created and is maintained by people like Peterson (or, I sadly now presume by association, like yourself) who find it easier, less controversial, and somehow more ‘ladylike’ to presume we already know how great these women were, so let’s stick to the fluff pieces.”

    Right. I’m clearly all about the lacuna maintenance. Because my three year blogging paper trail really supports _that_ assertion.

    Ciao.

  44. Steve Evans says:

    Kaimi, your paper trail isn’t the issue — it is what you’ve been saying in this thread. Your prior record of being active in the feminist blogging community is righfully well-known, which is why the incongruity of your present comments is so striking.

  45. Scheherazade says:

    “Don’t just complain about something someone has published.”

    I say go ahead and complain away. Meridian has a surprisingly big readership and thus the (disturbing) potential to influence a lot of Latter-day Saints. By all means, write something different and better. But, writing a strong letter of disagreement backed by good arguments sends an important message too–a message that should be sent.

  46. Ahh – I get it. It’s in my comment here, where I encourage Kris and anyone else to tell more stories about strong LDS women, that you seem to be finding support for maintaining the lacuna. Hey, points to you for creativity.

    I stand by my argument.. Absent unusual circumstances – fire in a crowded theater, etc – the solution to bad storytelling is not censorship. The solution to bad storytelling is good storytelling.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    Kaimi: “Ahh – I get it… Hey, points to you for creativity.”

    Look, I’m sorry if I’ve hurt your feelings. I agree with you when you say that “the solution to bad storytelling is good storytelling.” That said, if you think your comment 34 has the mere effect of encouraging people to tell more stories about strong LDS women, then I think you’re pretty mistaken.

  48. Scheherazade says:

    Kaimi,

    This isn’t quite right. I don’t think anyone has been calling for censorship. And I’m all for more story-telling. There’s a reason why I’m Scheherazade, the Persian princess who survived by her wits and her thousand and one nights of stories.

    But censorship on storytelling is not really what the problem is here. Kristine’s reaction to the article wasn’t “Oh, I don’t like this story, let’s ban or burn it.” This article is perpetrating a falsehood about these particular Mormon women and by extension about what it means to be a Mormon woman. The parallel isn’t censorship but libel.

  49. S,

    So it’s *false* that Emma was a good cook? I hadn’t heard that before.

    If there’s actual false information in the article, then by all means, let’s criticize that.

    But if these sisters really are good cooks, well, then the article is all true information.

    Now it’s true that there *is* an LDS tradition suggesting that “true, but not useful” information should really be suppressed. In fact, there’s a whole Boyd K. Packer talk on just that theme . . .

  50. Scheherazade says:

    K,

    “Perpetrating a falsehood” is not the same thing as saying that something is factually inaccurate.

    In his widely acclaimed book, The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien teaches us that just because something never actually happened doesn’t make it any less true. One might also argue that just because something actually happened doesn’t make it true. If an account of some actual happening distorts (does “violence” to using Kristine’s apt word) the reality of an event, it’s untruthful.

  51. Hey, um, Kaimi, while I realize you are busy offending as many people as possible here with your tortured and internally inconsistent take on things and your “watermellon and fried chicken” thing, I would like to take a moment to point out to you that it is really very easy to create italics using a simple HTML i tag. Put a less than sign then an i then a greater than sign and type the word then another less than sign a foreslash, an i, and a greater than sign. Its easy, Kaimi, really, it is, easier than underscores.

  52. Kaimi-

    I’m not buying your argument, either. Sorry. I have to back Kristine on this. This kind of article does a genuine disservice to the women it was written about, as well as to any woman who looking for a strong role model in the LDS church. It does not single out the women who were the best cooks–it is an article that superficially focuses on a very narrow aspect of these women’s characters, an aspect, I might add, that has little or nothing to do with the greater goals of Relief Society. Yes, it is nice that we pick up some homemaking skills along the way at Enrichment night, or whatever, (and I’m all for somebody blogging about a new recipe that will help me break out of my rut) but last time I checked, The Relief Society’s goals have more to do with teaching sisters about Christ, and bringing him closer to Him, as well as relieving suffering and bringing service to others. Nowhere does it say in the RS Proclamation that learning how to host the perfect party down to the last Martha Stewart-esque detail is paramount to entrance into the celestial kingdom.

    And I doubt that any of these women would like to be remembered only for their prowess around a stove. Kudos and thanks, absolutely. But as their crowning acheivement in life? Not likely.

  53. Ok, back up a little bit. I did some nosing about on the Meridian website, and it seems that this article is a part of a larger series called “Around the Table”. I could be wrong, but Janet Peterson appears to be involved in Meridian as some kind of food columnist. So maybe this isn’t just a random article in Meridian–it really is just a food article that happens to highlight the RS Presidents this month because of the celebration of the Founding of the RS. I agree with what Amri said earlier–not particularly noteworthy that this women cooked, as that would have been the norm given gender roles, and the history of it seems brief and a little lame. But put it in the context of a “Hey, what should we do a food article on this month”, and it becomes much less sinister, and much less a statement about the accomplishments of the Relief Society sisters than a columnist looking for something to write about.

  54. Steve Evans says:

    Heather O., I agree with your No. 53. Anxiously awaiting the snickerdoodle recipes of the Twelve.

  55. A Cheery Historical Homemaker says:

    Don’t just complain about something someone has published–that is counterproductive to what you are trying to communicate. Do something better.

    Emma’s Poppin’ Fresh Schisms

    Pluck one ripe, firm primogeniture debate from centuries of European tradition. Allow to ferment for several years. Gradually fold in 19 sacred (not secret) polygynous wives, 8 handcart companies, Lyle Boggs, and the revivalist anxieties of the entire state of Missouri. Saute gently in tar and feathers over the flames of mob violence, and garnish with several shredded pages of fresh Nauvoo Expositor.

    Serve cold.

  56. Scheherazade:

    First, sorry about the earlier abbreviation — I was typing on a mobile device, and not easily able to scroll up and see how to spell the name.

    Extremely annoying dorito:

    (See above re: mobile device.) Mobile devices aren’t known for their facility with typographical symbols.

    Scheherazade:

    You write: “One might also argue that just because something actually happened doesn’t make it true. If an account of some actual happening distorts (does “violence” to using Kristine’s apt word) the reality of an event, it’s untruthful.”

    This is Orwellian. Also, it’s exactly the argument that’s regularly used by orthodox church members to try to suppress church history that they don’t like.

    Elder Packer’s famous talk, The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect, makes just that argument. Elder Packer argues that just because some facts are _true_ doesn’t mean that we should discuss them.

    He said, famously: “Some things that are true are not very useful.” And he went on to offer a series of arguments as to why true facts about church leaders might not accurately depict reality. That we shouldn’t talk about those true facts just now, because people might have their testimony harmed by the facts. That some facts, while true, were just not “useful.”

    I’m quite surprised to hear the same sort of arguments being made here at BCC.

    The argument made, thus far, is along these lines:

    What Elaine Jack does in her kitchen may be true, but it’s not useful. Why do we have to talk about that stuff, anyway? It might harm somebody’s image of Elaine Jack, or of women.

    Which is an analytically identical argument to the Packer-esque orthodox assertion:

    Joseph Smith’s polygamy may be true, but it’s not useful. Why do we have to talk about that stuff, anyway? It might harm someone’s image of Joseph Smith, or of the church.

    Again, I suggest: The remedy for bad storytelling is not censorship; the remedy is good storytelling.

  57. Scheherazade says:

    Hmm. Guess you haven’t read O’Brien. That’s quite alright. When I have some time perhaps I’ll post on O’Brien. For now, suffice it say, BKP’s talk (which I know well) is not in the least analogous to O’Brien. The distinction you are trying to make (using Packer) between true and useful is not one I have made and you have not provided evidence as to why you think it is applicable to this case. Invoking the category of censorship (i.e. suppressing or excising ostensibly morally objectionable material) also seems odd and out of place here. No one has suggested censorship.

  58. Stephanie says:

    Scheherazade

    “but because perhaps people like Peterson should be deterred from writing them.” Steve Evans #39

    Sounds like censorship to me.

  59. Steve Evans says:

    Stephanie, first I’m not sure that Kaimi was addressing my comment. But if so, I agree that as I’ve phrased it, it sounds very much like censorship. However, I think there’s a difference to be made between not permitting someone to say something (censorship), and rejecting as consumers a given product or output (being smart). Peterson can of course write whatever she wants; but we don’t have to consume her product, and I believe we shouldn’t. That act of rejection by the end-users of her work would then serve as a deterrent to that type of output in the future.

    Hopefully that clarifies things a little for you. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  60. Kristine says:

    Kaimi, are you serious? I thought you were just arguing the opposite side for fun…

  61. Kristine,

    I’ll grant that the extent to which I really care does not correlate perfectly to the volume of comments.

    And yes, I’ve been picking on Steve for his inapt censor-like language, even though he’s now backed off of that.

    Two reasons I’m still around here, I suppose.

    First, because I really do think that the best approach is to encourage more storytelling. And I’m happy to know about Emma’s cooking, and Elaine’s, and everyone else’s. And no, it’s not the only thing that I know about them. But until I read the article, I had no idea about some of that information. And now I do.

    It’s fun to learn about people; Heaven knows that we don’t talk enough about Mormon women; the average member prolly couldn’t identify Amy Brown Lyman’s name if their life depended on it. And it’s _bad_ to tell stories about these women?

    So I guess I have to object to Steve’s censorship lite, as well. Bring on the stories. I’ve already confessed, on-blog, that I hate to see stories lost. I love posts like Ardis’s, that resurrect some long-forgotten (usually female) voice. And I don’t have a problem with talking about how great a cook Elaine is.

    And one more (not all that strong) defense of the article: A trifle is not deficient by virtue of being a trifle. And the article is a perfectly sufficient trifle.

    Now, we can certainly condemn the nutrician who puts only trifles on the menu. But the trifles themselves are not guilty of wrongdoing simply because they’re trifles.

    I shan’t be happy with Meridian if that article is the only thing they run about women. But as long as there are other (non-trifle) things on the menu, that article has a place.
    And if there’s nothing else on the menu, again, it’s not the trifle’s fault. It’s the nutrician’s fault. Blame the magazine for its scheduling, not the article for its failure to be something it wasn’t meant to be.

  62. But I’m really just arguing for fun. See, I went to the beach earlier today with the family — nice, bright, sunny day — so it was a good day round here.

    How’s the weather in the North? :P

  63. Speaking of the series “Around the Table,” Peterson highlighted President Hinckley’s cooking some time ago. His recipe for oyster soup is a cinch to make.

    Follow the Prophet: Cook Dinner at Home

  64. Isn’t the choice to highlight domestic skills of these particular women an acknowledgment that they were very important and did very important things outside the kitchen? If they weren’t seen as important for the other things they did, they wouldn’t be mentioned here. The introduction calls them “remarkable women” and “wonderful role models,” that were called to lead the Relief Society, not because of their domestic skills, but because of their “experiences, strengths, and abilities.”

    That the author assumes the reader already knew about all the great and imortant non-culinary experiences, strengths, and abilities is evidenced by this awkward phrase: “What may not be widely known by many, however . . .”

    Add to the acknowledgment that these women were important because of thier leadership and strength and abilities the fact that this is part of a regular series on food that has featured the domestic skills of President Hinkley and I can’t see a reasonable basis for anger here. Annoyance? I guess. But harm to women? Sexism? Implication that these women’s value was tied to their roles as domestic servants? Absolutely not.

  65. Kristine says:

    Tom, it’s true–in the context of the series, the RS Presidents bit is much less inflammatory, and I didn’t initially read it in that context. I would like it a lot better, though, if Meridian, or the Ensign, or the church web site had a regular column devoted to the lives of the RS Presidents.

  66. Stephanie says:

    As do we all. Write one then. If it is good enough it will get published. Or are you just content to complain to the choir here in this blog? I look forward to reading some of your stuff in the aforementioned publications.

  67. I loved reading everyone’s knee-jerk reactions to this seemingly insignificant article. Many missed the entire point/spirit of the article (and premise of the column). This wasn’t an article trying to cast women in a negative light by no means. This column is about everyone’s cooking. See posts 53, 54 & 63. Also read another article in the column that deals with men cooking

  68. Kristine says:

    Nope, Stephanie, I prefer complaining to the choir. By the way, you’re singing a little sharp.

    (Actually, you can find my stuff if you do a little searching. Not in the Ensign.)

  69. Kristine,

    I took a course in Women’s Literature while attending Utah Valley Community College. The professor was a firm champion for the remedy of gender inequities and an unapologetic feminist.

    The major class project she had us complete was to provide a 12″ x 12″ quilt square that we assembled ourselves. Each square was then combined together to create a small quilt (which ended up hanging in the library – no idea if it’s still there or not).

    The project was meant to connect us with the women we were studying in some sense. The contemporaries of the authors we were studying had a limited scope for artistic expression. Quilting was one of those vehicles for expression.

    And believe me, those women produced some fabulous quilts.

    I’d never quilted before. But I enjoyed the process thoroughly and like how my square turned out.

    I always try to take things at face value. A pine cone is beautiful for being a pine cone. A mountain is beautiful for being a mountain. Neither is diminished by a comparison.

    She who rages at a tulip because it is not an apple tree has shut herself off to the light that fills the earth.

  70. But I agree, I might have liked to have seen Meridian do a feature on the Relief Society Presidents that encompassed the scope of their callings and service a little more comprehensively.

    To every thing, there is a season…

  71. “Elder Hinckley then described one of his father’s dishes. “He’ll open a can of oysters and put them in some skim milk, put in a little pat of margarine and a little pepper and salt and say, ‘Isn’t this delicious?’ ”

    Priceless. I can hear his voice.

  72. Oh! How did I miss this thread? kris and Krisint, you are my Sheroes!

  73. make that !Kristine!

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