Funeral Potatoes. Such a sad name for a food that makes people so happy.
A wondrous variation of potatoes au gratin, this calorie-rich favorite has a clouded history and a clear future as one of the most beloved dishes in Mormon cuisine. So exactly what are funeral potatoes? Why are funeral potatoes and the 2002 Winter Olympics connected? If you’ve ever wanted to know, we’ve got the answers. Here are some fun facts behind this peculiar potato concoction.
One. People Have Strong Feelings About Funeral Potatoes.
Let’s get the basics down. Funeral potatoes are generally made by mixing shredded or cubed potatoes with cheese, a cream soup, and sour cream, topping it all with more cheese and crushed cornflakes, and sticking it in the oven. Despite the simplicity of the recipe, variations abound and people have some really strong feelings about it. Some are purists to the basic recipe above while others love adding some surprised to mix, such as bacon or jalapenos or adding breadcrumbs on top instead of cornflakes. No matter what your favorite recipe is, most everyone has one and if you go to any ward potluck you’ll find at least five different kinds to try.
Two. No One Really Knows How Funeral Potatoes Got Started.
The origin of funeral potatoes has been lost to history. However, the general understanding is that Relief Societies began making the dish for funeral dinners and luncheons; funeral potatoes are easy to make in large quantities and can be frozen for later. No matter how it got started, funeral potatoes are definitely inseparable from Mormon culture. Most all recipes and websites give credit to Latter-day Saints in the Intermountain West region for creating funeral potatoes.
Three. Funeral Potatoes in Utah Have Their Own Special Contest.
Funeral potatoes are such a staple in the state of Utah that there is even a special category contest at the Utah State Fair to find the best funeral potatoes in Utah. Utah’s Own hosts the contest and requires participants to use ingredients grown, produced, or processed in Utah in their recipes. Not all the recipes have been shared online, but you can find the winning recipe from 2012 here. It’s a southwestern version, with beans, corn salsa, and jalapeno jack cheese.
Four. Funeral Potatoes Were Featured on an Olympic Pin.
In 1896, trading pins at the Olympics was a kind gesture between nations. Today, it’s a powerful tradition with official and sponsored Olympic pins being released in limited editions during each Winter and Summer Games. In 2002, the Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City. As with tradition, the pins featured multiple cultural symbols of the area the games were held in. One of the pins of the Salt Lake Olympics was a funeral potato pin. As a side note, there were also multiple pins for green jello made.
Five. Jeffrey R. Holland Mentioned Funeral Potatoes in General Conference.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted the sometimes humorous way we discuss funeral potatoes in his 2010 October General Conference talk, “Because of Your Faith.” He noted that even if we laugh at our traditions, they represent Christ-like principles.
We smile sometimes about our sisters’ stories—you know, green Jell-O, quilts, and funeral potatoes. But my family has been the grateful recipient of each of those items at one time or another—and in one case, the quilt and the funeral potatoes on the same day. It was just a small quilt—tiny, really—to make my deceased baby brother’s journey back to his heavenly home as warm and comfortable as our Relief Society sisters wanted him to be. The food provided for our family after the service, voluntarily given without a single word from us, was gratefully received. Smile, if you will, about our traditions, but somehow the too-often unheralded women in this church are always there when hands hang down and knees are feeble.
Have a great story about funeral potatoes? Leave it in the comments below.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.