Cultural Learnings from Provo

Some reflections on a recent week spent in Provo:

1. It has quirks, but BYU seems like a fine place to study and work. The beautiful setting, fantastic resources, and dedicated teachers make BYU a jewel in the church’s crown. Which is why it is so important to get it right.

2. Three cheers for the Maxwell Institute. It’s not an easy job holding faith promotion in harmony with sound scholarship, especially with the added pressure of being named after a beloved apostle. I think they have done it. CPART is particularly impressive as is the new venture to promote LDS biblical scholarship (Studies in the Bible and Antiquity).

3. I had a chuckle at the evidence I saw of BYU profs who drink a Diet Coke for breakfast and/or keep a ‘Coke fridge’ in their offices. Even BYU needs caffeine, it seems.

4. Having said that, the American practice of offering free refills on soft drinks might seem generous, but it’s a terrible thing really. I drank more syrup in a week than I do in a month just because it ran cheaply. Here’s to European anti-freedom policies.

5. The Law School building is brutal.

6. The I-15 corridor is a ghastly scar on an otherwise spectacularly beautiful landscape.

7. Living on the east coast as I did (2002-2006) does not prepare you for the vastness of the western landscape. Driving from Provo to Moab, I felt like Frodo leaving the Shire.  I cannot fathom living in a place where the nearest city is 5 hours away. Still, the emptiness of the desert, particularly in the other-worldly Canyonlands, had me thinking of Terry Tempest Williams:

If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to self. There is no place to hide, and so we are found.

8. USA Today is a terrible newspaper. No wonder they give it away free in the Marriott.

9. I am always struck with how Americans take low-brow eating out so seriously. Everyone I met had a favourite place: best burgers, best Chinese, best French toast, best Tex-Mex. Over here, unless we are talking about gourmet eating, most restaurants are simply judged on price, the food being pretty homogeneous.

10. Too many ads on TV. How anyone survived before Tivo or streaming, I cannot imagine.

Comments

  1. “Have saw”? Get out of Utah, quick!

  2. Oops. Amended!

  3. Mark B. says:

    Complain all you want about “USA Today”! Did you see the Provo “Daily Herald”?

    Eating out in Provo? Little wonder people talked about their favorite low-brow foods. I’m surprised they didn’t tell you which night was their favorite at Chuck-a-Rama.

    Actually, the “ghastly scar” isn’t limited to I-15. It extends to nearly everything built by humans in Utah Valley.

  4. britt k says:

    I thought utah was really vast until we moved to Texas. hours and hours of driving with not so much as a thing. I wonder how it changes politics, philosophy, and thought in general to have so much darn space.

    I miss the mountains. Arches is just so spectacular too. utah fills it’s vastness very beautifully.

    I agree with the tivo thing…it really is astounding.

  5. The only thing that could make USA Today worse is if Rupert Murdoch bought it.

    Canyonlands=Mordor? Not so, I love that desert country. Terry Tempest Williams has it mostly right, but you need to read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey to get a feel for the whole experience.

  6. RE #3: Having never been a student at BYU, I was worried about the cultural adjustment I’d have to make upon taking a job there. I met with my cousin, a longtime faculty member, to ask for acclimation tips, and the ability to drink caffeine–at the very least, in my office, like a closet tippler–was one of my first questions. he answered that different departments seem to have their own “cultures” on this issue, and that many faculty have fridges in their offices. “The main ethical dilemma in my department,” he said, “is not whether or not it’s okay to drink Diet Coke on campus, but whether or not it’s okay to send your TA off-campus to purchase it for you.”

    RE #9: If you’d just try the sweet potato fries at Guru’s you’d begin to understand.

  7. Here’s to European anti-freedom policies.

    Hear, hear!

    As for the landscape, despite living there for over five years (1987-88, 1990-95), I never got into the desert. I respect the people who do–the Terry Tempest Williamses, the Edward Abbeys–but I don’t find that kind of barrenness particularly conducive to community or attachment (though obviously there are many throughout history who struggled mightily and with success to create communities in the midst of barrenness, many of our ancestors included).

  8. “The I-15 corridor is a ghastly scar on an otherwise spectacularly beautiful landscape.” Indeed. I cannot abide the endless strip mall…

    But it can be a really pleasant place, as your #1.

  9. “Over here, unless we are talking about gourmet eating, most restaurants are simply judged on price, the food being pretty homogeneous”

    My month in England corroborates this. Honestly, it’s an underrated cultural treasure, our low-brow food!

  10. I recently had a very bizarre and disturbing experience at BYU.

    I was in the Harold B. Lee library, and an announcement come over the P.A. system that the library would close in 15 minutes. Then they immediately began playing that ghastly Bryan Adams song, Summer of ’69, at high volume, so loudly you wanted to pack up your books and flee the premises, just to get away. Then the music stopped and an official-sounding voice said “The library is now closed. If you choose to remain on the premises, you are trespassing and will be subject to both university sanctions and civil penalties.” Then with the loud music again. As I left the library, two Kougar Kops were on duty at the door, eyeballing all potential trespassers, I guess making sure we didn’t try to hide behind a bookcase or something.

    I’ve been in many different university libraries at closing time, and they always just make a pleasant announcement that the library is closing and please come back soon. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like I was being rousted for doing something illegal. WTH, BYU?

  11. They seem to zone a lot of heavy to light industry along the I-15 corridor in northern Utah, which, together with a high density of billboards, puts an ugly public face on an otherwise beautiful place.

  12. observer fka eric s says:

    The Daily Universe, like Wal-Mart, gives you a good cultural survey of Provo. For example, in no other newspaper–college campus or otherwise–are there so many solications for selling pest control, alarm systems, sub-prime lending, HVAC upgrades, Liviing Scriptures, and like ilk. What does this content suggest about the readerships’ demographic concentration in Provo? What type of consumer in the United States buys consumer wares from a stranger at the front door anymore? Who effectively sells stuff door to door anymore? The soliciations will typically give a testimonial or example of the tens of thousands that one (out of dozens or even hundreds) salepersons made. This is truly a phenomenon that is unique to Provo.

  13. anonforthis says:

    I thought utah was really vast until we moved to Texas. hours and hours of driving with not so much as a thing. I wonder how it changes politics, philosophy, and thought in general to have so much darn space.

    You simply haven’t learned to “look”. We love our Texas roadtrips — so much history, so much to see, so much to experience. Of course, if you’re just trying to go to Point B from Point A, you’re going to miss it.

  14. Mark (#10): yeah, they blast music every night at closing time. Usually it’s something fun (like Pirates of the Caribbean), but sometimes it’s something ghastly (like Bryan Adams). I remember hearing it quite often when I was a student.

    And thanks for the reflections, Ronan. As I’m heading out to Provo in a couple weeks to spend the summer there, it reminds me of the things I’m both looking forward to and dreading.

  15. I recently moved from a much greener place where our 100-minute trip to the temple–each way–was nice and peaceful. Few billboards, and a thick layer of green trees on both sides of the freeway.

    I just moved to the Mormon corridor, and despite having lived here previously, I’m having a difficult time with the cultural shock. The mining operations going on just feet from I-15, and the billboards-every-ten-feet thing (many of them advertising for plastic surgery) aren’t helping matters.

    Utah is actually a beautiful state. It just needs to do a better job marketing that to visitors by making its main roads more driver-friendly.

  16. Mark, I was in there once when they started blaring the Imperial March from Star Wars. I’d like to think there are a few people sitting somewhere in library admin offices giggling like a couple of 8 year old kids as they try to out-do each other night in and night out with the music choice and PA verbiage.

  17. “What type of consumer in the United States buys consumer wares from a stranger at the front door anymore?”

    This is a major concern for me as well. Between all the door-to-door security guys, the phony-baloney natural remedies, the idiotic get-rich-quick schemes, and the outrageous amount of affinity fraud and other white-collar crime in Utah County, it really does seem like the economy of Provo is highly dependent on bulls*** and gullibility.

    I don’t think the reflects well on us when we go out to tell people about the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith story.

  18. Jacob M says:

    Your crime was not liking Bryan Adams! Duh!

    I love the desert, even though for the most part I haven’t been able to experience Utah’s yet. It is wonderfully stark yet surprisingly teeming with life. It makes you take phrases like “the waters of life” much more seriously, too.

  19. “I recently moved from a much greener place” Heh. We had a girl from Utah live in our apartment for part of a summer. She could not stop expressing amazement over how green everything was. I didn’t have the heart to tell her Chicago was actually having a drought, but it was a reminder that many Utahns are ignorant of the fact that they live in a desert.

  20. observer fka eric s says:

    17 – Jeremy – The positive is that the bull sit product recruiting out of Provo is contained in Provo. But if I wasn’t abundantly insinuating with my questions above, the door to door sales culture is developed during door to door proselyting. And whether its consumer product sales or proselyting, door to door selling/sharing is dead in societies where the internet has proliferated. In fact, I would go as far as to say that anything door to door is off-putting–which actually undermines whatever it is that the person is hoping to share with the resident. Question is, how long will it take before Church decision-makers internalize that the Church is actually undermining its sincere efforts to share the gospel with its own outdated door to door approach. Not sure about others, but this plays out week to week in my ward and stake.

  21. Chris Gordon says:

    #10 RE: the loud music, my understanding is that it’s as much to wake snoozing students up as it is to make them hustle out. I dated a girl who worked security there and she said that even with the music they invariably found someone asleep with their face smashed into an open book down in the nether regions of the library. Apparently it went down quite a bit once the music was instituted.

  22. 20 “how long will it take before Church decision-makers internalize that the Church is actually undermining its sincere efforts to share the gospel with its own outdated door to door approach.”

    You have a point about certain types of people with door to door approaches. But many missionaries I know can recount a story of knocking on a random door and being the right person at the right time.

  23. They tried rock music over loudspeakers to roust David Koresh and his followers from their Waco compound. Didn’t work. Maybe they didn’t try Bryan Adams.

  24. Chris Gordon says:

    Also RE: 20, door-to-door approach will live on as long as we aren’t efficient finders for the missionaries. You don’t like ‘em knocking doors, give ‘em more to do.

    In the meantime, the church is experimenting with web-based missionary work (both as the Zeitcast here has passed on with the Provo missionaries who work exclusively on the web and with a handful of missions whose missionaries work on the web at family history centers in lieu of tracting) and has been doing its outright best for years to institutionalize that tracting sucks. Years.

  25. observer fka eric s:

    That’s what I don’t get. If I were a Provo entrepreneur with missionary experience, I would know firsthand what a horrible strategy door-to-door sales is.

    Yes, as chris in #22 said, many missionaries can recount a story of knocking on a random door and finding that golden investigator. The key here is “can recount a story.” As in, one, or not very many. That’s great, because the worth of souls is infinite–well worth the entire two years of a missionary’s service to knock on that one door.

    But the worth of alarm systems or living scripture videos is not infinite. I can’t imagine it being worth the effort of door-knocking.

  26. 4. Having said that, the American practice of offering free refills on soft drinks might seem generous, but it’s a terrible thing really. I drank more syrup in a week than I do in a month just because it ran cheaply. Here’s to European anti-freedom policies.

    No offense intended, mind you.
    This is one of those times that separates people with a modicum of self-mastery from us proto-gluttons. I am ashamed to say that you are not alone in the result you experienced, but really: do we need nannies to tell us when to quit eating/imbibing sweets?
    Be an adult; walk away. :)

  27. N,
    I prefer the state to make decisions from me, because I believe in Satan’s plan.

  28. Raymond says:

    #22 – The same thing applies to door-to-door sales. It might seem ineffective from a percentage standpoint, but once in a while it works. I spent a summer selling home security systems door-to-door in CA when I was at BYU a decade ago. It sucked way more than knocking doors on my mission sucked. Dogs chased me, people yelled at me, and I didn’t have any mission-style “I’m doing God’s work” motivation to keep me going. But, surprisingly, I found enough people who wanted to buy a security system that it turned out to be a well-paying summer job. Mind you, the pay was nothing like the ridiculous get-rich-quick advertisements you see in the Daily Universe and in these companies’ recruiting meetings, but I earned more than I could have earned in a summer in Provo.

  29. Romney 2012 Supporter says:

    - It is very hard to get caffeine on campus.

    – It is jaw-dropping how green the United States is east of the Mississippi River and how brown it is west of it.

    – The Law School Building is a welcome relief from all the bland beige brick on campus.

    – USA Today has good sports coverage, but is otherwise an abomination.

  30. Re: your #9 — there’s gourmet food in England? :-)

    I went to Moab for the first time this year just before my daughter’s graduation from BYU. I had never been in my eight years at BYU years ago. Very cool stuff in that desert.

  31. Raymond says:

    #29 – Clarification: don’t forget the aptly-named Evergreen State is, in fact, west of the Mississippi.

  32. Romney 2012 Supporter says:

    Raymond,

    Ever been to Spokane?

  33. I have spent a total of about 36 hours in England yet managed to spent hundreds of dollars on pretty mediocre meals there. What is strange isn’t that Americans have their favorite cheap eats but that the UK hasn’t had a revolt over terrible food at very high prices.

  34. Raymond says:

    I prefer the only true and living side of the Pacific Northwest. Seriously, though, any green-starved westerner ought to visit the coast’s temporate rain forests.

  35. observer fka eric s says:

    22 – The one in a thousand is why door to door has not gone away. Psychologically, it operates like a variable interval schedule or like gambling: you will experience results on a variable schedule and it will cause your behavior to continue to employ that approach even if you seldomly experience positive results. But there are alternative approaches that can account for that one in one thousand encounter AND use missionaries more effectively.

    24 – It’s not that *I* don’t like them knocking doors. It’s that–in my observation–it is not effective where I live and I can think of more effective and efficient ways to place them. And to your other point, members have always been part of the approach and will continue to be. But they are not a realistic replacement for proselyting elders. Members in certain areas of the world and in certain societies cannot be as efficient or effective as missionaries or as technology because of other constraints on time and resources (income-producing activity, limitations on time with family, church service, etc.).

    Exploring alternative approaches to proselyting (e.g., the internet) is not inconsistent with pulling elders in certain areas from knocking doors where its not effective and redistributing them elsewhere. So, for example, you have one companionship with a car in one stake. Take all other elders out of that stake. People in that area of the USA etc. don’t like (culturally reject it) door knocking, but are internet savy if they want to consume information re religion. If someone is interested, the referal comes via the internet. Mean while, the companionship has a car and can proselyte and drive to internet/member referals for that stake. Then you take the elders that would have covered each ward in that stake and send them to cultures/parts of the world where door to door is still an effective means of consumption of information or product.

  36. Re 20, 22, 24, 35:
    In the San Jose mission they’re now trying a new program in which missionaries are not allowed to tract at all. As a result there is a heavy emphasis in the wards to invite your friends to meet with the missionaries. Now we just need to get the members to find non-member friends ;)

  37. I think the people who heard Bryan Adams at the library should count themselves lucky. I only ever heard “When the saints go marching in,” Maybe I didn’t go to the library enough.

  38. Chris Gordon says:

    @35, I hear you, but you implied in 20 that the church decision-makers have somehow not internalized that door-to-door proselytizing is counterproductive and should be phased out. I take issue with that assertion is all, and I’m pretty sure church decision-makers would too.

  39. StillConfused says:

    Provo has lots of low end eating establishments and very few nicer places.
    When in Provo (or Utah County for that matter), on the freeway, the left lane is the slow lane and the right lane is the fast lane. Passing on the right is a requirement.

  40. observer fka eric s says:

    38 — That they have not internalized that it is counterproductive OR should be phased out OR both?

    To be clear, I don’t think it should be completely phased out anywhere. For example, I read elsewhere on BCC today that proselyting is already phased out in areas like SF and San Jose but there are still missionaries assigned to that geographic area and they have wheels to get around to appointments that come in to them via members, internet, etc.. That seems *smart*, effective, and efficient for that area and like areas. But I suspect there are many many more areas in the US and Europe where that approach may be more effective and efficient. I’m in SoCal, and the elders in my area *rarely* (I’m talking 1 in 5 years) find someone d2d that is truly and sincerely interested in our brand of faith long term. Now, one could say, “well it’s because your members are not proactive enough.” But that’s not accurate, and it’s not cutting the tree at the stump.

    The stump is that most people (except for that rare find) where I live are not interested in learning or purchasing anything in a d2d format. If you want to purchase a vacume, a flat screen TV, a car, shoes, an iPod, a book, or learn about Mormons, Scientologists or anything for that matter, what do you do? My guess is that you first hit the internet. or talk to a very trusted friend or family member.

    So people where the internet is ubiquitous learn all they can, then they go to a retail location armed with information and having a very good idea of what they want. We aren’t amendable to sales pitches anymore because of the internet . . . it has subtly empowered us to think we are know it all consumers. It’s a major shift in consumer psychology from the time that the traditional proselyting approach was implemented.

  41. @35, I hear you, but you implied in 20 that the church decision-makers have somehow not internalized that door-to-door proselytizing is counterproductive and should be phased out. I take issue with that assertion is all, and I’m pretty sure church decision-makers would too.

    No kidding. They’ve been preaching that tracting is a last resort since at least 1974 …

  42. michelle says:

    “If I were a Provo entrepreneur with missionary experience, I would know firsthand what a horrible strategy door-to-door sales is.”

    I really, really hate door-to-door sales, but they must work because kids keep doing it and companies keep asking them to. As a volunteer in the business school, we sometimes have a hard time convincing students that no, pest control sales really don’t count for an internship and yes, there really is more to having a summer job than making lots of money.

  43. The worst meal I’ve ever paid for was at a (seemed to want to be upscale) “Tex-Mex” place in Edinburgh. Maybe the best meal I’ve ever had was at an Indian place in Cambridge. Provoans are hilarious to me in the way they rave about really terribly mediocre restaurants. “Brick oven!!! ZOMG!!!!” Uh, right. It’s better than Denny’s, that’s all I can say for it.

  44. britt k says:

    I always heard Hawaii 5-O in the library. huh.

    anonforthis…last summer we drove across texas. We didn’t have a lot of time to do it, there were deadlines on both ends and a 50th wedding anniversary to attend…and a little baby in the car with the other 8. We drove all day, a very long day and were still in texas. It’s big. I do agree that joy traveling is great here. I also love the state signs “Don’t mess with Texas and the construction sign “Give us a brake”…someone a bit clever with a sense of humor is in an office somewhere.

    back to UT. I like the desert.

  45. 33, etc.: The gag about bad British food is old, old, old and hasn’t been true for a long time. Britain has a large number of very good restaurants. For its size, Provo also has a number of good restaurants: Chef’s Table, Communal, Tree Room, Grill Room, Spark, Pizzeria 712, Nicolitalia Pizzeria, Guru’s, . . . and more good mom-and-pop ethnic restaurants (Japanese, Korean, Peruvian, Salvadoran, Thai, etc.) than you can shake a stick at. And Ronan is right about there being a good number of decent low-brow places.

    Give up on the cliches guys.

  46. Provo’s a college town. The fact that most of the food there is cheap should be no surprise. Still, good food exists for those who know. A high class atmosphere will be much harder to find.

    As far as British food goes, it has tough competition. Hard to compete against French or Italian food.

  47. #46: Tim, in Provo, LA, New York, ANYWHERE__has anyone ever opened the yellow pages to find ‘ British food’?

  48. Bob (47),
    Give me a break. Gastropub food is the rage in Chicago (try getting into Hopleaf on less than an hour and a half wait on a weekend) and in New York. And that’s just what leaps to mind . . .

  49. I should also say, Ronan, as much as I hate chain restaurants, one of the best chains I’ve eaten at — Pret a Manger — is a British chain. They make good, fresh sandwiches and soups, and, with a location in Midtown Manhattan, were a great — and not too expensive –lunch spot back when I worked there.

  50. I echo Jim’s comments in #45. I only spent a little time in England, but I had several great meals there — a couple of them in Huddersfield, for goodness sakes!

    Also, the fact that Utah County moms and pops love Brick Oven or Olive Garden doesn’t mean there isn’t better stuff to be found. One of my committee assignments at BYU burdens me with the responsibility of hosting campus guests on a fairly regular basis. We’ve had a number of guests from large metro U.S. areas express pleasant surprise at the quality of several restaurants–both of the high-end-evening-dining and the exec-business-lunch varieties. Not to mention good but cheap college joints like Slab, where they serve very good and inventive pizzas–served on squares of wax paper at army barrack tables. (We’ve also had distinguished guests, upon being introduced to the provincial Mormon tradition of replacing the libational after-party with frozen dessert, sheepishly ask for second helpings of yogurt at Spoon Me.)

  51. Aaron B says:

    Jim F,

    I’ve travelled and eaten in a lot of places all over the globe and I’ve NEVER been anywhere where the combination of food quality and price is as abysmal as it is in London. Perhaps I just didn’t know where to eat? But that’s true of most everywhere I’ve been. Granted, it’s been years since I set foot in the UK, but to my mind, the bad reputation was certainly deserved as of 1999 or so.

    Aaron B

  52. Elouise says:

    As to #7: the vastness of the West. A Utah-based writer some years ago had a call from his editor about some manuscript changes. The editor was sending the writer several pages of key changes the publishers insisted on. Writer then started to give Editor a P.O. box number in the town nearest to his southeastern hideaway. (This was long before the Internet graced our lives. And before
    I-15. ) Editor said, “No, no–this can’t wait for mail. I’m flying a messenger out to Salt Lake City; he’ll hand-deliver the envelope.” Um-hum.

  53. I should clarify my comment: I wasn’t saying there aren’t good places to eat in Provo. I was just saying that the ones most of the locals I talk to rave about are not the ones that are actually good. That’s what I find weird.

  54. Mining along I-15? Do you mean the gravel pits at point of the mountain and just before Bountiful? That’s not a large segment honestly. I do think Utah would be much more attractive without billboards though.

    The food situation in Utah county really is improving though.

  55. #48: Nobody go to Hopleaf anymore, it’s too busy!
    Ya, steak and kidney pie is worth the wait. I guess I am spoiled by getting top Mexican food from 20 restaurants within three miles of my house.

  56. #54: Yes, since New Orleans washed away everyone is heading for Utah for the Mormon food. Who needs Gumbo when you can have Jello.
    You guys who like British food can tell me where to get the best Mormon food in Utah. I understand there will be very little meat in it.

  57. Jim F.,

    I’m not citing a cliche, I’m telling my own admittedly very limited experience. I’ve had four sit down meals in London, they were all outrageously expensive for what they were. Several times more than you would pay for a better meal in SF or NY.

    I am sure there were places that were both better food and more reasonably priced, I just didn’t happen to encounter them. I can totally sympathize with the idea of picking favorite cheap places in Provo. For instance have family members that think Cafe Rio is the pinnacle of Mexican cuisine, personally I think it is terrible and I refuse to eat there, but I understand the appeal of something that is cheap and familiar.

  58. While I’m at it, places I’ve had great, memorable meals while traveling on short notice, without time to research:

    Orlando (!)
    Taipei
    Sindelfingen, Germany
    Paris
    and…
    Durango, Mexico of all places. In fact all of the meals I had there were excellent. If there were any touristy reasons to go there (not a big enough fan of Westerns and concerned about drug violence) I’d vacation there and eat my way through the town.

    I’m trying to think of a place that was as disappointing as London.

    Maybe Zurich? I though the food there was very expensive. Good, but expensive.

    In order to not offend Steve I’ll mention that I had a lovely, inexpensive meal with him in Times Square. I think I paid more for parking than for the food.

  59. Who would have thought it but Provo has the best Indian restaurants!

  60. Josh B. says:

    beautiful photo

  61. Josh B. says:

    … and nobody dare put down Beto’s

  62. I’m not even going to bother countering the clichéd, offensive, and ill-informed complaints about British food.

  63. The Law School building is brutal.

    Keep those architectural puns rolling :)

  64. Doug Hudson says:

    The real reason Britain conquered half the world was that even they couldn’t stand “British cuisine”, so they had to take over places that had decent food and import it back. : P

  65. #62 RJH: My experience is skewed and somewhat old (15 or so years ago), but the one “upscale” restaurant I visited in Brentwood was quite disapppointing for the price. Admittedly, most of my other meals were in US franchises (driven by the fact that my Venezuela travel partners wanted to pocket most of their per diem rather than spend it on real food). I will say that my daughter, who recently completed at BYU semester in London, found quite a few restaurants she raved about.

    #58: When my company moved my family and me to Taipei a few years ago, all I heard from co-workers was how GREAT the food was there. And we found it to be true for food of every stripe — local Taiwanese cuisine, Japanese, Italian, Indian, Thai and on and on. Great raw materials, wonderfully prepared, and at all price ranges, too.

  66. #62: Well__I do like fish and chips….

  67. As a child of Nevada, I always found LA felt very humid and Provo was very green. Then I came to live in Maryland and expanded my understanding of such things.

  68. Again, I’m not re-telling a cliche any more that Ronan is when he discusses free refills or “low-brow eating out”. We are both discussing our own limited experiences. Frankly I’m offended by suggestions to the contrary as they imply some sort of stupidity or dishonesty on my part.

  69. #62 RJH, and yet you offer your own clichéd, offensive, and ill-informed complaints about Provo in the OP…

  70. KLC,
    Please tell me where my I have done as you accuse.

    John,
    I don’t doubt that someone can feel ripped off by food in London. Such is the nature of the place. But the extrapolations that others have made by rolling out all the lame clichés about English food — all hopelessly out of date — are ridiculous.

  71. To clarify further: I’m not saying that others can’t claim that they’ve had great food in the UK. Just don’t be jerks to those of us who have been unfortunate enough to have an experience which lives up to the stereotype.

  72. How about this, I retract the following statement that I made earlier:

    What is strange isn’t that Americans have their favorite cheap eats but that the UK hasn’t had a revolt over terrible food at very high prices.

    I apologize for feeding a stereotype with that statement. I still deny that I’ve rolled out all the lame clichés about English food. Unless the only lame cliché is it is overpriced for what it is, a sentiment you seem to agree with in the case of London.

  73. John, I live here and like the food. The proliferation of British celebrity chefs ought to signal something (not to mention the food served up on my mum and my wife’s dinner tables). If we have a sin, it is in being satisfied for mediocrity, which is why you were unlucky to combine that trait with London, which charges ridiculous prices for everything, deserving or not. Which was my point in the first place. So I guess we agree. Hooray!

    I made two comments in the OP about American food, neither of which are untrue:

    1. You offer unlimited refills, which, being the glutton I am, is bad for my waist. My hilarious gag about European anti-freedom policies probably suggests I am not being entirely serious.

    2. You take low-brow eating very seriously. This is not a bad thing. We should to. Rather, if we can get a curry and naan for £3.99, success!

    In return, I get offensive drivel (from others, not really from you) about Britain not having gourmet food, conquering the world to steal everyone else’s food, and the old fish-n-chips cliché.

  74. I recall eating at a Subway and a Burger King while in London. Not bad.

  75. I ate at Pizza Hut in London–interestingly enough, it was all-you-can-eat.

    Us Americans don’t have much room to complain about British food when our food exports are Subway, Burger King, and Pizza Hut. Especially when those chains have to improve the quality of their food to have success in Europe.

  76. #73: RJH,
    Curry and Naan is Indian food. Yorkshire pudding is British food.

  77. Wrong. Curry and naan is British.

  78. Who knew? My favorite restaurant in Sandy, UT has been serving me British food all along under the moniker of “Royal India”.

  79. Ronan, I liked this post despite some of the sill meanderings in the comments. Living in the centre of the Great Lakes, I was also amazed by the landscape and spend much of this week re-reading Terry Tempest Williams. Can’t even tell you how sad it made me that I was driving out of Utah, just as you were arriving.

  80. As a Moabite, I love the desert. We spent three years in Virginia, and though I loved the water and the green, I missed the unobstructed vistas, and places where you can go for a day hike and never see another person. We do miss some of the activities that larger cities offer. As far as community, I’ve never lived anywhere that has more of a community feel than here, for good and bad.

    But, then, we like to treat ourselves while in Provo to Brick Oven “Hawaiian” pizzas and Cafe Rio pork tacos and grilled chicken salads! Apparently, we have poor taste in food…

  81. Better put: curry and naan served in an Indian restaurant in England is British.

    Kris, sorry to have missed you.

  82. Waldo,

    As someone that just visited Moab and was saddened to see that the Center Cafe has closed allow me to extend my condolences.

  83. I have to agree that curry-n-naan is at this point a British thing. Just as Chinese food changed in very particular, very strong ways when it came to America, Indian food in Britain is now a distinct form. It seems entirely fair to recognize and credit that.

  84. We love lowbrow everything here! Lowbrow books, lowbrow tv, lowbrow music, lowbrow clothes, etc. Lowbrow is our highbrow! Yay America! Yee Haw!

  85. #83: Cynthia L.,
    But we still call it ” Chinese food “. Nor do we claim the “Luau”, or “Sushi” as American food. Texas BBQ__yes.

  86. But do we really think of pizza as being “Italian”? What about Tex Mex being Mexican?

  87. Raymond says:

    #85 Calling it Chinese food doesn’t make it Chinese. Same thing goes for many other countries’ foods that we adapt to suit our tastes. A prominent example is the large portion of our so-called “Mexican” food that is really American Tex-Mex (e.g., Cafe Rio).

  88. Raymond says:

    Sorry, Tim. Looks like we had the same thought at the same time.

  89. Cafe Rio does not in any way deserve to be described as “Tex-Mex”. Ugh.

  90. It’s Bra-Ute.

  91. A good (speculative) history of curry: http://www.menumagazine.co.uk/book/curryhistory.html

  92. #87: “Calling it Chinese food doesn’t make it Chinese”. So what does it make it?
    I have lived in S.Cal for 64 years__long before there was anything was called ‘Tex-Mex’.

  93. Jacob M says:

    The pizza we usually eat in America is not Italian, it’s usually New York and sometimes Chicago. However, there are plenty of places in the US that serve true Napolitano style pizza, and it is delicious, if a tad more pricey than American. As a matter of fact, my brother lives in SLC, and there’s a good Napolitano pizza place there. Can’t remember the name, though.

  94. Raymond says:

    #92 It’s American. That’s the point. The word Tex-Mex is an acknowledgement that calling American food (even if it has a Mexican influence) “Mexican” is inaccurate, regardless of how long we have erroneously called it Mexican.

  95. 93–exactly. Pizza’s evolved in the U.S., and thus most pizza in the U.S. is U.S. pizza, and not Italian. I think that’s the point with “Indian” food in Britain too. It has evolved quite a bit, and so perhaps we can call it British food now.

    I’ve actually been quite impressed by the restaurants in SLC. I’ve lived in larger cities in the U.S. with far fewer good restaurants.

    Unfortunately, I’m apparently several hours from an Indian restaurant right now. I used to live ten miles from about ten different Indian restaurants, but there doesn’t seem to be any Indian restaurants in SE Idaho, or at least not in or around Idaho Falls. They’re too obsessed with American food here, and most international restaurants struggle.

  96. #94: But there was Mexican food in California before Americans controlling California. I was just down into Mexico last mouth. And guess what ?__they were eating Mexican food and not calling it American.
    We have many kinds of Chinese foods in California__none called ‘American’.
    I call Pizza an American food.

  97. Raymond says:

    #96 Having spent two years eating in members’ homes on my mission in Mexico and traveled throughout the country, I can testify that their carnes asadas, chorizos, pastor, bolillos, tortas, spices, tortillas, chiles, cheeses, guanabanas, mangos, tamales, moles, cakes, candies, and many other foods are much different than what you find in an average “Mexican” restaurant in the U.S. If you are one of the few Americans who seeks out authentic Mexican places here, good for you.

  98. Raymond says:

    By the way, I’m not disparaging American Tex-Mex, which is often erroneously (if innocuously) called “Mexican food.” I like some of it. I’m just informing you that it’s different than the food in Mexico.

  99. The mistake is to associate ‘British’ with ‘Anglo-Saxon’.

  100. Peter LLC says:

    I call Pizza an American food.

    But Bob, what would a guy from southern California know about pizza? (Speaking as a guy from southern California)

  101. re: #93
    Settebello

  102. Jacob M says:

    101 – Yup. That’s the place. I found the food good to the taste and very desireable if you dig actual Italian style pizza.

  103. You came to Utah and you didn’t call? I am deeply offended.

  104. I’m not even going to bother countering the clichéd, offensive, and ill-informed complaints about British food.

    The Fat Duck is in London. It’s typically ranked in the top 5 in the world.

  105. PS – two of my favorite foods are Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Beef and gravy as well as fish and chips. Both distinctly British.

  106. I should add that it would be a crime to discuss Utah County cuisine and not mention that Clark’s Amano chocolate is possibly the finest in the world and is made in Orem. Everyone should give it a try. If you really like chocolate, you’ll love Amano.

  107. #106: Amen!

  108. Mark N. says:

    For the love of Pete, somebody has got to bring back the Pizza ‘n Pipes places. How do they expect to inspire the next generation of Ward and Stake organists without people being exposed to classic theater organ music???

  109. Romney 2012 Supporter says:

    I’ve never been to Britain. Is it true that a lot of people there have bad teeth?

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