From funeral potatoes to fry sauce, Utah’s favorite food traditions have social media buzzing — and confused

For the second time this month, an iconic Utah food has got social media buzzing.

This might be good news, except the web world seems completely confused — or disgusted — by two of the state’s most beloved food traditions: fry sauce and funeral potatoes.

What’s next? Green Jell-O with carrots? Pastrami burgers at McDonald’s?

On Wednesday, Heinz asked American condiment lovers to decide — through a Twitter poll — if it should start selling Mayochup, a premade blend of mayonnaise and ketchup, in the United States. (According to the Evening Standard, a British newspaper, it’s been sold in Persian Gulf countries, like Dubai, for a couple of years.)

Less than 24 hours after the poll was posted, more than 470,000 people had voted — with 55 percent approving of the product and 45 percent saying “Nah, I’ll make my own.”

As anyone with a connection to Utah and its signature foods knows, the founder of Arctic Circle restaurants created this pink concoction in the 1950s as an alternative dipping sauce for french fries. Since then, almost every Utah restaurant has developed its own version using ketchup and mayonnaise — and sometimes pickle relish and spices.

While huge in Utah, fry sauce remains mostly a mystery outside the state.

“Don’t we have the copyright on that?” asked Cynthia Fleming, executive artistic director of Salt Lake Acting Company, who since 2010 has directed SLAC’s annual parody of Utah culture, “Saturday’s Voyeur” — which name-checks fry sauce as a uniquely Utah creation.

“It’s really funny to have something that we’ve grown up with, and be a part of our small culture, to open up nationally,” Fleming added.

Nicole Kulwicki, director of marketing for Heinz, said Thursday via email that the social-media response has been “amazing,” and also intense in many parts of the country, including Utah and Idaho.

“We know our friends in Idaho and Utah are passionate about Fry Sauce, and we’ve seen lots of other great [product name] suggestions online,” Kulwicki said. “If we get to 500K ‘yes’ votes, we will be giving the nation a say in our final name.”

The debate over mayochup, er, fry sauce, has been playing out on social media — just follow the #mayochup hashtag.

The fry sauce isn’t the only Utah food that is misunderstood.

Facebook and Twitter started buzzing last week when a Walmart advertisement touting a package of dehydrated funeral potatoes showed up in feeds.

Not long after, the hashtag #funeralpotatoes started trending.

Actually, they’re “to die for.” That’s what Augason Farms, the Salt Lake City-based company that makes the product, writes on the back-of-the-package messaging.

As most native cooks know, funeral potatoes are the name of the baked casserole made with potatoes, canned soup, cheese and a crushed corn-flake topping. It’s a mainstay at many family gatherings, but got its name because Mormon women regularly make large pans as part of the warm meal served to grieving families after a funeral.

Since so many people were confused, it might be well to heed the advice of @LatterDayLeft, who wrote: “We need [to] up our missionary efforts.”