Monday, March 9, 2015

What about the Word of Wisdom?

Christ stated, "What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." (Matthew 15:11) While I fully understand that from a Mormon perspective Christ can speak again and give good advice and commands beyond what is recorded in the New Testament, I no longer accept the Mormon tradition as speaking for Christ. That doesn't mean I've decided to take up smoking or binge drinking. I just view them as about on the same level of moral concern as participating in extreme sports- having many potential negative consequences including death but not a black and white matter of right and wrong.

I've heard stories of people who leave the church and suddenly family and friends assume that they are immediately going to start smoking cigarettes and heavily drinking. Frankly any former member of the LDS church is probably going to have some period of experimentation with things that used to be forbidden to them like a teenager trying to figure out what their increased freedom really means. However, what each person experiments with and how they do it will be different- assumptions are inappropriate.

Just to clear things up, at this point I do not intend to drink much alcohol. Being on the autistic spectrum I have been and probably always will be at a high risk of depression, anxiety, chronic loneliness, and a high level of social inhibitions when I'm around people. Since drinking can loosen social inhibitions I'd probably enjoy social drinking quite a lot. It would also probably be personally risky. My life is hard enough without giving myself an unhealthy short cut to feeling better that would be easy to abuse. I just don't plan on going there, but that isn't the same as total abstinence.

I love trying new foods and I love to cook. Many recipes call for alcohol. I no longer feel a need to always substitute out other ingredients for alcohol. When I cook with alcohol, I see no reason not to taste it to understand better the flavors I am experimenting with. The three alcohols I've tasted so far I'd rate as tasting more "interesting" than "good" on their own. Cooked into other foods, they can be fantastic. For example, pasta with white wine infused into the dough tastes absolutely marvelous even with a bottled alfredo sauce. I've made red wine infused pasta that in the right context was heavenly. One of the best grilled steaks I've eaten in my life was marinated in ingredients including red wine.

What about the health risks of alcohol? Am I endangering my children by letting them eat wine pasta and marinated steaks? I'm honestly not that worried about it. I am aware that alcohol does not completely "cook out." I am also aware that especially for longer cooking times, much alcohol is destroyed or evaporated during cooking and what remains is very dilute. Most of the health risks of alcohol come from drinking more than something like one glass a day (for a man) or drinking too much at once. Most of the recipes that I have tried with alcohol in them have called only for a few tablespoons or perhaps 1/4 cup for a dish that might take my entire family two days to eat. We don't make many of these dishes because some of them are time consuming, wine is expensive, and many recipes that call for it we've substituted out the alcohol so long that it tastes right to us the way we've always done it and we forget to pull the frozen wine out of the freezer to thaw in time. My alcohol intake from cooking with alcohol over time is probably less than my alcohol intake from cough syrup or even my alcohol intake from eating fresh homemade yogurt with a drop of almond extract. McCormick Almond Extract flavoring is 32% alcohol-dramatically higher than any wine I've  even thought about cooking with and my kids eat a lot of homemade yogurt.  All told, since leaving the LDS church a little less than a year ago, our cooking projects have consumed a little less than two bottles of wine.

I have started to experiment with drinking tea. I love Indian food with the variety of spices and flavors that I would have found unimaginable before I started eating Indian food. Chai tea in its many varieties plays with some of the same flavors. I'm looking forwards to trying to learn to brew it properly with my own spices instead of relying on pre-flavored packets. So far, I have no plan to experiment with coffee. Though I might someday, at this point there simply hasn't been an inherent appeal. I do not intend to ever experiment with tobacco- there is no inherent appeal for me and the health risks are high and are not readily avoidable by using it sparingly.

For my still Mormon friends and family members, I promise I won't even invite you to dinner and try to trick you into eating something with alcohol in it. It probably wouldn't even be on the menu. For my non-LDS friends, if you want a little wine with dinner we'll have to check what's in the freezer.

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