I sometimes look at the used markets for research materials and I recently found a copy of the 1983 Mercer Island Ward Cookbook for sale on ebay. I remembered that my current ward was organized in the mid-1980s and that previously it was part of the Mercer Island Ward. A quick email to the ward list and responses confirmed my suspicion. Within a few weeks a friend lent me a copy from their own shelf.
When I was young, I thought the church was like a machine. Throw all the pieces together and it will run. And it is true. We know the roles and if we have people to fill them, we get things done. My parents left Utah in the 1950s as part of the greater diaspora. They were the only ones to leave from their families. In retrospect, I think I convinced myself that we weren’t there because my parents chose the better part. Every summer we visited family in Utah, and I needed a reason why I was different. Our focus was on education and opportunity. You went where it was. My parents had made new roots, but I really had none. I went where the opportunity led, and when I married my wife, we continued on.
We did not seek out my childhood city, and it is something of a surprise that we have lived here for almost ten years. It was always contingent. But now in moments like when I read through this cookbook, I find myself utterly convinced that while the machine turns and without question many good and great and holy things are manifest as it does, there are some things that do not come with the flip of a switch.
There are many names I don’t recognize—thirty years really is a long time, the ward has split, and we’ve only been here a third of that time. But next to not a few recipes are the names of friends. Krinkle cookies: The new move-in fireside that first summer and when I began writing I dropped off new manuscripts just as a heads-up. Creamy tropic salad dressing: She brought persimmons and rice as visiting teaching offerings, and her husband always stopped to ask me thoughtful questions after lessons (even though I wasn’t the teacher). Pineapple-apricot preserves: I went to her home after receiving a new calling and wept. There is rhubarb cake, caramel corn, and strata. I remember pumpkin chiffon pie playing piano and deep fried oysters making candy; I also remember them dying.
We can jump into new situations together and accomplish great things. I am now convinced, however, that certain things—important things—can only be had with time. There is a certain type of love that needs time to grow. It is not a machine. It is the years of work and play together that contextualizes our relationships. We teach each others’ kids or we sub for each other in nursery. We wash dishes after the ward party. We get to actually know one another. Sure, we can always do the right thing acontextually. Bring a meal over: check. But with time that same task is transformed into something besides the right thing to do, something more than our job.
What terrifies me is how fickly selfish I am. Despite a deep yearning for Zion, there are many I still don’t know or who it is not yet natural to love. I’d like to think that in thirty years someone might look back at a 2014 Newport Ward cookbook and remember well. I think there would be recipes from men as well as women now. Hopefully the names will still resonate with a few relatively new readers. Perhaps mine will be among them.