My First Christmas Potluck Dinner in Utah


     When is the worst time to move from Arizona to Utah?  The end of November.  Arizonians moving to colder regions of the country during this time should be against the law.  Moving companies should be required to enforce this law.     

 “You want to rent a moving truck for November 28th?  No problem, from which city?  Oh, Phoenix... I’m sorry we have  no trucks available at that time. Please call back after Christmas.”    


 What’s wrong with moving from Arizona to Utah in November you ask?  You are leaving Arizona just when the weather is turning beautiful and wonderful and pleasant and gorgeous and... sorry I’m remembering what it was like to live in Arizona.  You are arriving in Utah just as the beautiful weather is leaving.  You miss an entire season, and it’s the best one!    


 In 1999 on Thanksgiving weekend, our family moved from Mesa, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah.  We drove away in our van with our air conditioner on, and arrived with the heat on full blast.  If our mini-van could talk it probably would have said, “Where are you taking me?  Haven’t I been good to you, putting up with the stale french fries and sticky gum all over my seats? What did I do to deserve this?”     


Culture shock doesn't even begin to describe what it was like to come to Utah. I hadn’t seen that much snow in years, and I wasn't used to driving in it.      Something Utah needs to invest in is heaters for all streets signs.  Doesn't the city realize that when it snows the streets signs are the first things to get covered? Figuring out all the North, South, East and West numbered streets in the city is hard enough, but when I can’t even see the numbers all those straight streets look like each other. 


One time I was trying to get to 700 East, but because the exit signs were covered in snow, I ended up on 1700 West.  For those of you who live in communities that actual name their streets, I was three miles off!     I think my only saving grace at that time was the fact we hadn’t changed our license plates yet.  For some reason I felt a certain measure of comfort knowing that my mini-van announced I was from Arizona where ever I went. 


If I made a last-minute right hand turn, the car behind me could say, “She didn’t realize that she needed to turn because she’s from out of town.”  Or if I skidded on some snow, my fellow drivers would watch and say, “The poor thing, she’s never seen snow before.”  Or if I drove extra slow during a storm, the impatient driver behind me could think, “Aren’t the snowbirds supposed to go south for the winter?”     


At the same time I was trying to adjust to the culture shock of winter, I was also trying to adjust to the culture shock of living in Utah with so many other Latter-day Saints. After two weeks in Utah, one night I faced both.     The night of my first women’s activity in my new congregation, a snowstorm hit.  Since it was December the activity was a Christmas party.  Each sister was invited to make their favorite traditional Christmas meal for a pot-luck supper.     


Our family’s traditional Christmas meal is New Mexican food.  I’ve never really seen that as out of the ordinary since I grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Many people feel like it just isn’t Christmas without snow, well for me, I need luminarios and tostada compuestas.      I decided to make one of our family’s favorite dishes… chile con queso.  It is a spicy cheese dip served with warm tortilla chips. I had images of all the women in the ward impressed by this wonderful dish.      

“Who brought this delicious cheese dip?”    
 “The new sister over there.”   
 “It’s so unique and exciting, she must be as well; I’ll have to get to know her.”       

I’m sorry to say that night didn’t go at all like that.  I learned ten things:

1. When it is snowing, allow an extra 15 minutes to find coats, hats and mittens for 4 children.
2. When it is snowing, allow an extra 15 minutes to put coats, hats and mittens on 4 children.
3. When taking the chile con queso off the stove, don't forget to turn off the burner or it will stay on the whole two hours you are gone.
4. It is very hard to drive in wet snow while wearing an oven mitt.
5. When unloading the car, it is difficult to decide whether to first bring in the baby, or the chile con queso.  Go for the baby.
6. Don't try to bring in both the baby and the chile con queso at the same time.
7. Chile con queso is very difficult to clean up off a cold, wet, snowy sidewalk.
8. Teenagers think that chile con queso spilled on a cold, wet, snowy, sidewalk looks like vomit, and THEY WILL NOT HELP YOU CLEAN IT!
9. Most women in Utah don't eat chile con queso, even what little was managed to be saved from being spilled onto a cold, wet, snowy sidewalk.
10.    Most women in Utah consider lime green jello as a traditional Christmas dish and will bring many variations with strange vegetables in it.

I have gone to several Utah Christmas potluck dinners since that night almost 14 years ago.  I’m still making chile con queso and others are still bringing variations on a theme of lime jello, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  

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