Like most long-standing organizations, Mormonism has developed its own culture and language. While, of course, Mormons speak whatever languages their nations speak, they have words that are meaningful only to them, traditions, and cultural ideas. Sometimes people confuse the culture with the doctrine, but of course, culture is merely a fun way of creating unity. The Mormon culture sometimes differs based on geographic location. However, it may be the food that is most familiar to outsiders. Let’s look at Mormon food traditions, which are not rules, but do sometimes have their roots in commandments.
Mormon Food Traditions
What kind of culture doesn’t have food traditions? Mormons are big fans of potlucks and compassionate service casseroles. They also often have large families and tight budgets. All these have led to certain types of food traditions.
The food most often associated with Mormons is green Jello. I’m not sure why green is the preferred color, although the joke is that if you put carrots in it, you can count it as one of your vegetables. Presumably Jello is popular simply because it’s inexpensive, easy to make, and liked by children, and Mormons usually have several children at least. Utah, which has a large Mormon population, eats so much of it that the company sent Bill Cosby there once to try to convince them (unsuccessfully) to make it the official state dessert.
Funeral potatoes are a very unhealthy casserole that isn’t really just saved for funerals. However, Mormons regularly make a meal for the family to share after a funeral and this meal is easy to prepare and not too expensive. They were formerly called Nauvoo potatoes. Nauvoo is a city founded by the Mormons in the 1800s. The recipe uses hash browns, cream soup, sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, onion, and a corn flake topping. It is, of course, baked as a casserole.
And that brings us to the infamous Mormon casserole. Mormons are big fans of casseroles. While casseroles aren’t a commandment, caring for those in need is and that’s where the casserole fits in. Mormons traditionally bring meals to church members and friends who are ill, have a new baby, or who are facing trials. Casseroles, of course, are easy to transport and can be heated by the family when they’re ready to eat. Naturally, they are also easy for busy Mormon families and are often made ahead and frozen.
Mormons always bless their food before eating. They make certain they thank God for providing it for them, part of their training to recognize God as the source of all blessings in their lives. They also generally pray that it will strengthen and nourish their bodies. This occasionally becomes a source of amusement when, at a church meeting, they are merely blessing the cookies and punch being served after the meeting.
Food traditions aren’t, naturally, the most important parts of Mormon culture. But these types of traditions help build a sense of community and belonging. Because Mormons consider themselves family, and families usually have food traditions, they strengthen that connection to one another. Mormons use Brother and Sister as titles, in place of Mr., Mrs., or Miss, referring to that sense of family. This is because we are all—Mormon and non-Mormon—children of the same Heavenly Father, making us family to one another. Remembering that we are family helps us to treat each other more kindly and to serve one another in times of need. You’ll note that several of the Mormon food traditions are the result of a strong tradition of service.