What Are Funeral Potatoes? Walmart Customers Were Confused By The Product, But The Concept Actually Has A Unique History
We all know that clever marketing trick where whatever you were last shopping for online immediately ends up as ads on your Facebook page. (In other words, be careful what you shop for.) But in a delicious and yet traumatizing turn of events, Facebook is advertising "funeral potatoes" sold by Walmart to confused but hopefully hungry users, Today reports. It sounds morbid, and we're all, "Who died?" but funeral potatoes are surprisingly amazing.
Upon doing a little digging, I discovered I've actually had funeral potatoes, which I always knew as cheesy hash browns. There are countless variations of the casserole-type side dish, but the general recipe calls for 'taters, cheese, some kind of cream soup (like chicken or mushroom), sour cream, and a crunchy top made of cereal or potato chips. I'm not crying. You're crying.
I know what you're thinking: why does something so magical have such a disturbing name? I tried to hunt down the history of funeral potatoes (which I hereby vote we rename "potatoes of paradise"), and here's what I learned. According to Culture Magazine: The Word on Cheese, the potato casserole is widely considered a comfort food associated with the Mormon church, as they would prepare it for grieving families after a funeral.
While it's still widely known by that name, these days, funeral potatoes are simply a hearty side dish perfect for cold and dreary days, PMS, break-ups, your mother's Tupperware parties, and any day that ends in Y. They're salty. They're gooey. They're creamy. They're the potatoes of your dreams.
So, funeral potatoes are less creepy than they seem, although it's still weird that Facebook was advertising them to people who had never heard of them, as Today reports. Kind of like when Facebook shows me ads telling me to donate my eggs. (Please stop.)
There's a reason funeral potatoes/cheesy hash browns/potatoes of paradise are considered the ultimate comfort food and not a spinach salad. Simply put, carbs and fats make us happy. Shocking, I know. (*eye roll*) What may surprise you, though, is that even science has come to this conclusion. In a study published in PLOS ONE titled, "Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load," researchers found we tend to crave processed foods that have high levels of sugar (read: carbs) and fat — like pizza!
So that's why I love pizza so much, I'd eat it off the floor? Now it all makes sense.
EarthSky explains further why we love fatty foods so much. For starters, they concentrate flavors and smells, which helps explain why you can "taste" bacon just by smelling it. Also, because the human body absorbs fatty food very slowly (slower than proteins and carbs), it makes us feel full. This cues our brains to release those cozy hormones that make us feel happy and satisfied. Our love of fats could be an evolutionary thing, too. Since they have more calories per gram than protein and carbs, in the old days, people might have favored them because they were better able to keep them satiated and energized. It's always a good idea to blame evolution.
Lastly, we know from ScienceNews that cheese stimulates the brain's reward system. "They are systems that signal to us when something we do is good, like eating, procreating or drinking water when you’re thirsty," neuroscientist Joseph Frascella told the website. I bet your brain is like "HECK YES" anytime you take a bite of crunchy, cheesy potatoes.
Combine all of these things, and it comes as no surprise funeral potatoes (or pizza or chocolate or grilled cheese) can help us feel better in times of stress or sorrow.
So, rest easy, Facebookers. Those ads aren't some omen that death is at your doorstep. They're just potatoes, and they're mighty tasty. Enjoy!