Monday, June 9, 2008

To Eat, or Not To Eat

I've always loved the smell of coffee. When I'm grocery shopping (and not with Avram, who hates the smell), I'll walk down the coffee isle and sniff a lot, just because I can. Especially if it's a high class grocery store, and has a "grind your own beans" section. Mmmm.

The summer before I started high school I worked (under the table) for a coffee house called Juliano's. Besides making myself a fancy cup of hot chocolate for free every day, I loved working there because they ground their own shmancy beans, and then the coffees would brew, and it smelt so...wholesome, and yummy, and full bodied. (Now I sound like I'm going to wax eloquent verbally the way that descriptions of wine do: this coffee has a full bodied smell, with overtones of a warm stove and a winter morning, a hint of cinnamon, and layers of aromatic wood shavings).

I'm a good Mormon, I am, and so I've never actually drunk coffee. Nor do I plan too, because of the Word of Wisdom. But that doesn't stop me from loving the smell and idea of coffee. (Although, I must jump in here and clarify that I only like the idea and smell of high-class coffee. The stuff in gas stations just doesn't cut it. Also, I know that the actuality of coffee is a much more complex love than the theory; there's the caffeine and addiction issues, there's the adding-so-much-sugar-and-cream-that-it-ought-to-count-as-a-dessert issue, not to mention that to a lot of people I've talked to, the actual taste of coffee is very different than the smell of coffee, but thankfully the idea of coffee is much less of a complex issue).

All this came to the fore yesterday, our last day at the ward here (we'll be here next week, but it's stake conference). As a going away present, the Primary gave me a picture frame to be filled with a picture of the primary (taken yesterday), and then a really fancy box of chocolate truffles by Thorntons. Avram doesn't like chocolate, so the onus of the burden of consuming these 15 delicacies, which weigh in at 309 calories each (!), rests on me. (That's over 4 and a half thousand calories! Good thing I'm up to the challenge.)

We didn't open them until last night, after Lydia was in bed, and then I finally took stock of my bounty. I then noticed that one of the flavors of the chocolates is cafe latte, or a coffee mousse chocolate cream inside of a white chocolate shell. Avram made an off-hand comment about oh well for those chocolates, but then when he wasn't looking, I secretly, in a Heidi Reed like fashion, poked a hole in the bottom and licked the coffee mousse. I really wanted to know what it would taste like.

I have to say, it tasted good.

Although rather stronger in the coffee flavor than I was expecting, mostly because up until now all the coffee I've had has come in through my nostrils. Which, upon reflecting, is a really ugly word. Nostrils, that is. Ahem, moving on....

Avram noticed me surreptitiously sampling the truffle, and commented that he didn't care if I ate it, that he thought that the coffee used as flavoring wouldn't count as breaking the word of Wisdom. Although he wouldn't eat it.

Avram pointed out that the Primary gave it to me, in fact the sister who did is married to one of the counselors in the Stake Presidency. And these chocolates not only have two cafe latte truffles, but also a champagne truffle and a brandy one. And she must have thought it was okay to give. That's almost like a Church stamp of approval, right?

Then I thought of our good friends, the Reeds. They both eat alcohol cooked in foods. I used to have moral qualms about this; did alcohol cooked foods count against the word of Wisdom? Since living here in England, I've realized that whatever else, none of the British saints think so. There are ton of British dishes that cook with ale. There are even some in our ward who maintain that the Christmas pudding must first be covered in Brandy and then burnt off. As well, I don't think the French saints think so either. I think everything I ate in France had come into some sort of contact with wine. I love fondue, and since traditionally fondue is made with white wine, I felt a real need to come to a conclusion on this. I finally decided that I didn't mind eating food that had been prepared with an alcoholic beverage, as long as it had been cooked (removes some of the alcohol). The Reeds mentioned once (I hope I'm remembering this right, and if I'm not, I'm sorry for misquoting you) that to them eating something made with wine isn't the same as drinking wine (or other alcohol), which is what the Word of Wisdom forbids.

Ironically, I find I prefer the taste of fondue not made with wine, but I now don't worry at all about eating food that has been prepared with alcohol. I would never prepare such a dish in my own home, but I think that's for twofold reasons; one, I'm cheap, and we all know that Avram would never let a bottle of only five dollar wine in our house, and I'm not willing to buy any liquid that costs more. Two, I would never want to have to go buy alcohol in those state stores. Yuck. And I wouldn't want someone to see me buying in, in case they thought I was going to drink it, not cook with it. Of course, the question would then be why they were in the same store.... A third reason is that I wouldn't want to keep a bottle of wine in my house. Just because.

But I don't mind eating the countless ale pies they have here.

So, how does all this transfer over to coffee? I mean, we all assume we don't drink alcohol because of the alcohol in it (duh). We assume that we don't drink coffee usually because of the addictive nature of the caffeine. So what about eating something that is flavoured with coffee. Does that fall under the buying rum extract to flavor things with rum clause, or is it still coffee, since you can't cook out caffeine like you can cook out alcohol? Is it the amount that counts? The fact I'm eating that does?

I normally avoid caffeinated drinks, since they fall under the "don't become addicted to anything" clause, but if I do drink something with caffeine in it, I don't feel bad. After all, even if all the pop I drank was caffeinated, I still wouldn't become addicted, because I almost never drink pop.

I've always avoided coffee ice creams and desserts because I've never had an answer to this question. I still don't. I don't even know if I'm going to finish the cafe latte truffle I've started. But on the other hand, I don't think I felt guilty while eating it. At least, not very guilty. Although I don't think I would have eaten it in front of my mother (who reads this blog faithfully, so I guess I am eating it in front of her. Don't hate me, Mom).

I'm one confused lady.

What do you all think? What's your take on the Word of Wisdom? Do you eat coffee flavored products?


  1. I hate the smell of coffee. I think it smells like roasted puke. I used to go to a cafe in Manhattan often, and after being in there a while I would get used to the smell. But when I left the place I could smell my clothes and my hair, and it stank of coffee, I thought. I might have just been paranoid. It's strange that I don't like the smell, though, because I absolutely love most roasted smells.

    Once I ate coffee-flavored ice cream cake at a party with a friend's family. I was about 14 and was really confused about what to do, and I was very shy back then. I ended up eating it because it wasn't actually drinking a cup of coffee, and I just didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I figured there wasn't enough coffee in it to "count". Today, I probably would have done the same thing. However, I thought it tasted nasty, so maybe I wouldn't.

  2. i LOVE the smell of coffee. Mmmmmmmmmm. I love to walk by the starbucks at the hospital on my way to my NST and just smell the coffee goodness. that said I hate the flavor. i remember when i used to work at golden swirl and we had a cappiccino and mint cappiccino flavored frozen yogurt. They were just flavored so not real coffee in them.. but i thought they were so nasty! i do remember that amy liked them though! So I do avoid coffee flavored things but only because i think its gross tasting, not out of priciple. I also have spit out many a jelly belly becuase it was coffee flavored. The flavor does nothing for me... but the smell is divine! Kind of like dishwasher detergent. I love to smell it and take nice deep breaths, it just smells so delishious to me! ( its the anemia i am told) but I dont think i would ever even try tasting it as i am pretty sure it would just taste like soap.

    About the dishes made with alcohol i eat them.. I love one of the olive garden dishes that is made with a wine for the sauce. I dont think i would ever make them at home for the same reasons as you.. but i have no problem eating them elsewhere.

    Oh and i would worry more about dad judging you than mom.. i bought him some fancy chocolates for christmas and he said he couldnt eat them because they had brandy flavored ones etc... i was under the impression that this was not really alcohol and just a flavoring?? but whatever!

  3. My dad drank coffee. Each morning of my growing up years would begin with the smell of Folger's coffee brewing in the kitchen. That odor has warm, fuzzy feelings for me but I also have never drank coffee. Seems I have tasted it and didn't like the flavor and I have no intention of trying to develop a like for it. I have been known to refuse pastries which have alcohol in them but I have also eaten baked goods with alcohol in them. In fact, artificial vanilla has alcohol in it. I do use red wine vinegar. I guess the Word of Wisdom thing comes down to being honest with ourselves and honest with the Lord. You answer for yourself when you go for your temple recommend interview and if you feel comfortable before the Lord with the choices you have made, it is really not anyone else's place to judge you. On the other hand, another man's sins will never save you. We can justify to ourselves doing what is wrong so in our honesty, how honest are we with ourselves? I know I wouldn't offer you alcohol or coffee flavored chocolates.

  4. I'm like you Thora, I LOVE the smell of coffee, and have never drunk it (intentionally). If I did I'd be the "dessert coffee" drinker too. When I was (much) younger I got one of those 7-Eleven iced mocha drinks, cause I thought it was just flavoured, and it was Gooo-Oood! When I learned that it was actually coffee I was crushed. And I never got one again.

    I have cooked with wine before, in fact that yummy 3-mushroom stuffing I brought to Thanksgiving several years ago had about 1/2 a bottle of white, which I sent my then drinking friend to the liquor store for. :)

    I guess I'm a little liberal on the alcohol/coffee in things area. I don't have a problem with things cooked with coffee or alcohol, but won't drink them. I don't think I'm going to get addicted to stuffing or ice cream.

    Barbara is right, Vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in bourbon. So you cook with alcohol practically every time you bake, unless you use that wretched imitation vanilla flavor, in which case, you'd be better of not baking at all.

  5. You took the words right out of my mouth! I've been wondering this exact same thing lately. Except about alcohol, not coffee. I don't like the smell of coffee at all. Ick. But, the topic of coffee has come up several times while I've talked about cooking with alcohol.

    I'm as confused as you are. Sorry I can't be helpful here. :)

  6. You've already summed up my opinion pretty well - I eat alcohol and coffee, but do not drink either. Our reason for this you referenced, came from an apocryphal story about Pres. McKay eating rum cake and saying that the Word of Wisdom was a prescription against drinking alcohol, not eating. Matt says it is referenced in his recent biography, which we, alas, cannot find (naturally).

    That said, I don't eat it if I can taste the alcohol (in addition to the flavor). So I usually avoid liqueur filled chocolates, uncooked brandied cherries, alcohol soaked cakes, etc. Coffee, as you say, is more complicated. I like it in chocolates and ice cream. Sacrilicious.

    Another quick comment - imitation vanilla does contain alcohol, as your mother mentioned. It is imitation because it's wood soaked in alcohol instead of a vanilla bean soaked in alcohol.

  7. I once brought up the question of coffee ice cream to my co-workers at the New Era. Their response: "Just don't eat it during Conference."

    Here at Lac du Bois, a lot of alcohol goes into the food. Last night we had coq au vin and it was delicious. During training, when we were with all the camps, they'd announce any dishes made with alcohol ("This was made with alcohol, there is a non-alcoholic version in the kitchen for those who want it"). They did this for the benefit of the Al Waha counselors, many of whom are Muslim. I cheerfully partook of the alcohol-free fare. But now that I'm just with the French, I don't feel that I can justify making the kitchen cook a separate, alcohol-free dish just for me. Besides, they're serving this to little kids. They can feed ME whatever they want but there are laws about how much booze you can give to kids that aren't yours. So I figure I'm pretty okay. Besides, my faith causes everyone enough inconvenience. (I used to beg the kitchen for hot chocolate powder so I'd have something hot to drink in the mornings instead of coffee or tea. This was a huge pain in the butt for them. Now I bring my own chocolate powder from Utah, and write my name all over it, but other counselors still think it's municipal and drink it all. And then I snap at them because I have nothing to drink. And then everybody's mad.)

    I don't like the smell of coffee, but once I had a really, really, really good Napoleon that was very heavy on the coffee flavor and I loved it. My grandmother eyed me askance. Then again, this is the same grandmother who is convinced that black pudding is against the Word of Wisdom and that Mitt Romney's defeat means there's going to be a second Holocaust, against Mormons. I've come to enjoy ticking this grandmother off.

  8. I'm with you, Aleatha. I never liked the smell of coffee, even when I was addicted to it. (Thirty-five cups a day is an addiction!) I finally got over the addiction, but still ate coffee flavored ice cream until I joined the Mormon Church. I had already quit smoking, drinking alcohol, and coffee, but giving up Baskin-Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream was nearly a deal-breaker for me. I'll eat food prepared with alcohol, as long as the alcohol is in minute quantities (vanilla ice cream) or mostly cooked off in preparation, but I try to avoid things that TASTE like coffee or alcohol, as it feels to me like cheating. But chaque un a son gout!