Before being settled by Mormons in 1848, the region was the seasonal home to the Bannock, Paiute, Goshute, and Shoshone tribes of Native Americans. During its time, the Pony Express had a station in Murray. Throughout its early history, the region was used for agriculture exclusively, however in 1869, an ore deposit was found, and that quickly became the top economic factor for the region. Murray housed the first smelter in the area in 1870 and would remain the center of business for smelting for the next 30 years. In the mid 1880's, the railroad came through the state which increased business to the area.
Murray was officially named in 1883 after General Eli Murray, for whom the post office was named. It was officially incorporated on November 18, 1902. The smelting industry suffered greatly during the Great Depression, but the Second World War and the explosion of the automobile industry after the war would keep the city thriving in spite of that set back.
Cool factoid: Murray High School was used for filming the auditorium scenes in the first High School Musical movie.
The Historical Event: So why did I choose the state of Utah for this week? Well, June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day, a very important turning point during the Second World War. I was a history major who focused on that war, though mostly on homefront issues, as opposed to the warfront. However, D-Day is one of those events that draws you in, regardless. The strategy and tactics involved, the luck, and the huge loss of life make it a compelling story that needs to be retold. So what does this have to do with my choosing Utah? Well, the coastline of Normandy, France was divided into five separate pieces and given names: Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword, and Gold. Utah and Omaha were the beaches that the Americans were responsible for. Juno, Sword, and Gold were under the responsibility of the British and Canadians. Because I have already done the state of Nebraska for this project, that left Utah!
The Food: Jell-O and "Funeral" Potatoes
All right, that's enough history for one blog post. So, back to Murray, Utah and food. Jell-O is not a food I generally eat. I ate it as a child, but since I don't eat beef, that pretty much leaves out anything with gelatin in it, and since I don't really do sugar anymore, Jell-O is pretty much off the menu. But...Utah is the Jell-O capital of the country. More Jell-O is eaten per capita in that state than anywhere else in the nation, so I felt like I needed to honor this. And during my research one dish came up over and over again and the name was such that I couldn't just dismiss it. What the heck are "funeral" potatoes? This is a side dish that shows up at nearly every funeral, and church or community function there. It's easy to make in large quantities and isn't terribly expensive either. It's great for feeding large crowds. And it turns out it's a very similar side dish to a family recipe we eat every Christmas Eve called "patio" potatoes, but it was different enough that I tried it out anyway.
And now, to the potatoes, which my sister ate too and really liked. I made a half batch of what I was basing mine off of and made a few other changes, so I'll write out what I did, but will provide the link to the original recipe in my Sources at the end.
16 oz. frozen shredded hashbrowns(Most packages in the store are bigger than this, so measure out 16 ounces from the larger bag and keep the rest for another use.)
1 can Cream of Potato soup(Cream of Mushroom would be great too.)
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
14 cup melted butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup crushed potato chips
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Grease a 9"x9" oven-proof dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the soup, sour cream, cheese, melted butter, and onion until well combined. (I found the onions too raw for my tastes when the dish was completed, so next time I would probably saute them in the butter first before adding it to the bowl and mixing with the rest of the ingredients.)
Add the frozen shredded hashbrowns(do not thaw first) and gently fold into the soup mixture until well combined. Spread this out in the greased dish.
Combine the panko and potato chips in a small bowl or on a plate and pour the melted butter into it. Mix until well combined and spread out evenly over the potatoes.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and everything is heated through.
Jell-O Consumption, I didn't just make it up!
Funeral Potatoes Recipe
Utah Beach History
More Utah Beach History