Thanksgiving’s Not Full With out Texas Potatoes

Early within the morning on Thanksgiving, I’d rush from my mattress straight to the kitchen, keen to assist my mother with the vacation preparations. She’d already been cooking for days at this level—chopping greens, gathering giblets for gravy, and drying out batches of cornbread for her dressing (which if we had been fortunate, got here twofold—one model enriched with chunks of sausage; the opposite bolstered with shrimp and crawfish). There was rather a lot to get enthusiastic about, however nothing thrilled me greater than the containers of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sitting atop the fridge that will grow to be the crunchy topping for our household’s favourite aspect dish: Texas Potatoes.

Texas potatoes—additionally known as Funeral Potatoes—have been a staple in my household for so long as my siblings and I can keep in mind. My mother and father, natives of southern Louisiana, discovered themselves in Texas within the early Nineteen Seventies, newly married, and shortly elevating the primary two of 4 kids. My mother shortly adjusted to Texas life, and needed her kids to really feel rooted within the state. She realized and honed recipes for sheet cake, Texas chili, and taco evening fillings, and exchanged favorites with ladies from all kinds of cultures who’d additionally migrated to the state. As an elementary college trainer, my mother befriended many different avid house cooks, together with my third grade trainer, Brenda Sancamper, who shared invaluable cooking suggestions. It was Mrs. Sancamper, a white Midwestern girl who’d lived in a number of completely different elements of the South, who launched my mother to Texas Potatoes. My mom cherished the thought of a tacky potato dish that wasn’t particularly troublesome to make throughout the holidays, and after the rave response the primary Thanksgiving she tried it, Mother saved it on the vacation menu rotation for many years.

The title Funeral Potatoes could not sign cheerfulness, however the dish is reassuring in origin and nature. The beloved casserole—a thick layer of creamy, tacky diced potatoes baked below a buttery, hefty layer of crushed cornflakes—emerged in Utah’s Mormon group throughout the late nineteenth century; like meals traditions in most of the world’s cultures, it’s a staple that seeks to consolation the grieving.

In Funeral Festivals in America: Rituals for the Dwelling, writer Jacqueline S. Thursby notes that the potato-cheese casserole grew to become a mainstay of funeral occasions in northern Utah, the place the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew to become a main vessel for the casserole’s fast rise in recognition within the state. Funeral potatoes, Thursby writes, grew to become “an expectation on the funeral meals within the area.” Over time, the dish additionally grew to become related to happier non secular ceremonies, too, like Christmas and Easter.

“Mormons typically specific their love and solidarity via meals,” says historian Benjamin E. Park, an affiliate professor of historical past at Sam Houston State College. “If a member of the family dies, you’ll be able to anticipate a Mormon neighbor to point out up at your step with a casserole.” However whatever the occasion—joyful or heart-wrenching—Park says, “when you’re going to have an enormous Mormon gathering, you’re going to be presenting meals.”

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