One of the cultural touchstones of Utah is the funeral potato.

As you might guess by its name, the funeral potato is served to people who are in mourning, but it’s also served at ward parties, family reunions and other socially awkward situations.

Oh, sorry, if you’re not a member of the dominant religion in the area, you may not have eaten the funeral potato, which is OK, because depending on who made it, you may not be missing much.

Funeral potatoes are correctly made with frozen shredded hash browns, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, so much delicious cheese and a sprinkling of cornflakes on top. They are wonderful.

They are easy to undercook, but hard to overcook. You want them to be just the right consistency of crispy on top, firm underneath.

You know you’re dealing with an amateur when the pan of funeral potatoes shows up without the cornflakes.

Even with common ingredients, the results of the funeral potato vary. Many times you get the pans of funeral potatoes, and they look like completely different dishes.

Some appear as though they were made just with the soup and the cheese, while others are so loaded with green onions, you’d think they were funeral onions. Some people try to be clever and make their funeral potatoes with diced potatoes, tater tots or some other potato-like stand-in.

All right cowboys, let’s settle down on customizing the funeral potato recipe. Switching out the shredded hash browns in this dish is like pouring Mountain Dew in your gas tank to see if it’ll work.

It won’t.

You don’t mess with the recipe. These things are typically served to sad people. You don’t want to make their situation worse by giving them soupy, overly oniony or not cheesy enough potatoes.

“First Netflix cancels ‘Daredevil,’ then my favorite uncle dies, and now I have to eat these,” says Sally Sadsack. “Why couldn’t it have been me? Why didn’t Netflix cancel me?”

I think sometimes people don’t have everything they need, so they try to wing it. You wouldn’t do that with anything else. Or at least you shouldn’t.

We’ve all ran out of chocolate chips for the cookies. Do you run to the store, or do you grab a can of black olives and hope it works out?

To be fair, I’m sure sometimes it does. Like the time Col. Sanders ran out of chicken. He did what he felt was reasonable and butchered his neighbor’s Doberman and bam! The chicken fried steak was born.

If it weren’t for the fact that Francis C. Scone’s stove broke down, and he had to cook bread in a deep fat fryer, we might not have ever discovered the doughnut.

Sometimes greatness is created during culinary experimentation, but other times it is not. Like the person who decided they really wanted chicken enchiladas, but they didn’t really have the ingredients for them. We’ll call this person Hitler. Anyway, he combined corn tortillas, cream of chicken soup and cheese into a dish that looks and taste kind of like vomit.

There are certain fundamental food rules that should be followed. Fish and chocolate don’t mix. Croutons are not for ice cream. And most important, the funeral potato recipe is not to be messed with.

Look, I’m not going to tell you it’s wrong for you to make your pan of potatoes with Colgate instead of sour cream, or radishes instead of potatoes or even if you want to replace the cheese with gluten free axle grease. It’s your funeral.

Just don’t bring those potatoes to my funeral.

Follow David Anderson on

Twitter at twitter.com/cruizerdave

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