Midcentury Midwestern cooking is known for its mixture of home cooked meals and convenient foods. In an exhibit called “Midwest Comforts” that highlights this phenomenon, an Iowa museum is highlighting a dish that Utahns know well: funeral potatoes.
This cheesy potato casserole is, in some ways, the epitome of midcentury modern food: the goodness of home cooked meals combined with the convenience of Campbell’s condensed soup and Kellogg’s cornflakes.
The Courier, a local Waterloo, Iowa, newspaper, drew attention to this exhibit, which is at the Grout Museum. The exhibit includes a lot of midcentury modern nostalgia including food, furniture and advertisements.
Exhibit coordinator Jenny Bowser told The Courier that party potatoes, “sometimes called funeral potatoes because it was a dish people made and took over to neighbors after a loss in the family,” were displayed on the wall in recipe form. In addition to funeral potato recipes, the exhibit features classics from Betty Crocker as well as Wonder Bread and bologna — think of a midcentury Midwestern food and it’ll likely be present.
The Grout Museum described the exhibit this way on its website: “Beginning September 6, come in and ‘feast’ on family recipes and food nostalgia at the new exhibit: Midwest Comforts. Peruse recipes from local cooks and reminisce over forgotten food advertisements and local establishments. Fun for all ages!”
While conventional wisdom holds that funeral potatoes were invented in Utah, the Midwest is united with the West in their love for funeral potatoes. Anna in the Kitchen, a recipe blogger, noted that while the “Jell-o belt” loves these cheesy, cornflake crusted potatoes, they are not alone in that love: funeral potatoes are seen as a traditional Midwestern dish, too. The Chicago Tribune published an article tracing how funeral potatoes are evocative of Midwestern memories.
This food-centric exhibit is available at the Grout Museum in Iowa until March 4, 2023.