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Folklorists working to reveal Utah identity — through food

Published July 22, 2014 10:26 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Three Utah folklorists are working on the ultimate Utah food book.

The yet-to-be-titled publication will have chapters devoted to iconic foods (think green Jell-O, pink fry sauce and funeral potatoes), local specialties (such as Green River melons, Bear Lake raspberries and Sanpete County turkey), Utah liquor laws, Dutch oven and pioneer foods and ethnic food contributions.

Co-author Eric Eliason, a folklorist and English professor at Brigham Young University, said that too often residents of Utah identify themselves through religion and politics — usually Mormon or non-Mormon and Republican or Democrat.

"Food," he said, "is more ecumenical" and can encompass everyone.

"One of the things about fry sauce or Utah-style scones is how it helps us claim a common Utah identity," he said.

The authors come from varying backgrounds. Eliason's co-authors include Carol Edison, the former folklorist for the Utah Arts Council, and Lynne McNeill, an assistant professor of folklore at Utah State University. The book will be published by University of Utah Press and will have recipes and full-color photographs.

No publication date has been set.

Eliason said the Utah foodways book won't be gourmet fare, with talk of fine wines and cheeses from Europe.

"We will be coming at it from the view of folklorists," he said, "focusing on foods that people actually eat in a local area that are distinctive to that area."