It began with a bowl of glistening cubes of green gelatin. Utah's food culture has generated more than 100 souvenir Olympic food pins, with cookbooks to share in such stereotypical delights as Green Jell-O with Pineapple and Cottage Cheese, Fry Sauce and Funeral Potatoes.
Other host cities' cuisines could have easily become food pins (Atlanta's Southern cooking; Sydney's bush tuckers, wichety grubs and "shrimp on the barbie"). But they're a unique phenomenon of the Salt Lake City Games, said Craig Weston of Aminco International, the official manufacturer of souvenir pins for the 2002 Winter Games.
In 1998, Aminco released 5,000 green gelatin food pins, retailing for $7. Soon, they took on a Beanie Baby-like mystique. "Now they're worth $150 each, if you can get your hands on one," Weston said. "So we did fry sauce and kept it going. If we went a month without doing a food pin, we would get calls. It's one of those series that the local community has embraced. People are having fun with it."
The pin depicting fry sauce a ketchup-mayo concoction invented by Arctic Circle burger drive-ins in the late 1940s sold out within two weeks at $7.95 each, said Gary Roberts, Arctic Circle president. "They're now worth $60 each," Roberts said. "I wish I would've bought more myself."
Visitors shouldn't assume that all Utahns subsist on a diet of Jell-O, funeral potatoes, ice cream, zucchini and fry sauce all prepared in a Dutch oven. Cherry pie, popcorn, cookies, tacos, hot dogs, pizza, Rice Krispie treats and fortune cookies have universal appeal rather than Utah-only ties.
Corporate sponsors (Coca-Cola, Certified Angus Beef, etc.) have their own pins. Earlier this year, the Utah County commissioners had 1,000 green-and-gold zucchini pins made up probably the only version of this prolific vegetable to come in limited quantities.
Local companies also got into the act. Rainbow Gardens, the Ogden gift shop complex, did a pin for its signature menu item, the Mormon Muffin. After it became a hit, Rob King, one of the Rainbow Gardens' owners, decided to publish a cookbook devoted to Utah's souvenir food pins. More than 75 pins are featured in the book, due off the press at the end of February.
For each pin, there's a light-hearted story of its ties to Utah food culture, and a recipe. Widow's Milk, Bee In Your Bonnet Honey Butter, Carrots in Suspended Animation Jell-O and The Great Strawberry Lake Kool-Aid Punch are a few of the recipes, as well as the Mormon Muffin.
Rainbow Gardens delayed publication of "Utah Pin Cookin' " while more food pins were coming out each month. The book comes in a three-ring binder, with the idea that more recipes and pages can be added as future pins are released. The book retails for $14.95. (To reserve a copy, call Rainbow Gardens at (801) 392-3902.
Great Mountain West also has a "Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Cookbook" that shows about two dozen food pins. Some of the accompanying recipes are simplified (the waffle recipe lists "1 package frozen waffles" as its sole ingredient, and the recipe for pizza calls for a phone and a phone book). But the books have many other non-pin recipes, such as "Pioneer Wheat Cakes" and "Crispy Apple Muffins."
Both books feature recipes for Funeral Potatoes, the hash-brown casserole loaded with sour cream that's typically served at post-funeral dinners.
Altogether, more than 1,000 souvenir pins have been produced for the 2002 Olympics, said Jeff Fleming, a collector and owner of the The Pin Hut stores at the Layton Hills and Newgate malls. He and his sons began collecting pins with the Calgary Olympics in 1988, and it developed from a hobby into a business.
"You can buy other souvenirs, but pins don't take up much space, and you can wear one on your jacket, and pretty soon someone will ask about it," he said. "They have conversational value. But wait until you see some of these collectors who come to the Games. They get so caught up in it, they give away their tickets to the events so they can keep trading pins."
The food pins, like mascots and other symbols, provide an additional common denominator for people to associate with the Games, Fleming added.
The original green gelatin pin is still the most valuable, but only serious collectors are going to pay upwards of $150 or more for it, Fleming said. But the newer versions green gelatin with shredded carrots, green gelatin with pineapple and cottage cheese and multi-colored cubes of gelatin will still offer cultural flavor at an affordable price. Those will be very popular during the Olympics, he said.
A myriad of pins represent the local sweet tooth ice cream cones, marshmallows, ice pops, s'mores, Rice Krispie treats, holiday mints, mint sandwiches and salt water taffy. Fleming predicts the newer chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream cone will be popular during the Olympics because it's still retailing for $7.
He also predicts that future host cities won't continue the food-pin trend.
2 (3-ounce) packages green gelatin
1 cup Cool Whip
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple
1 small package lime-flavored gelatin
1 large can crushed pineapple
1 small carton cottage cheese
1 large package green gelatin
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup ketchup
2 10-ounce packages frozen hash browns (or 1 2-pound package, or 6 boiled potatoes, shredded or cubed)
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 pint sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Pepper to taste (due to the soups, it usually needs no salt)
1/2 stick butter, melted
Allow hash browns to thaw about 30 minutes. Mix together onions, sour cream, soups, cheese and pepper, then mix in potatoes. Place all ingredients in a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Mix butter with corn flakes and sprinkle on top of the casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2 cups boiling water
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 quart buttermilk
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups All Bran or 100% bran cereal
2 cups bran flakes
2 quarts Kool-Aid or fruit drink mix