With school back in session and football season in full swing, autumn for many in Provo wouldn’t be complete without some of Brigham Young University’s famous foods.
Signature treats like BYU Creamery ice cream, mint brownies, chocolate milk, Cougar Tails and Y Sparkle have been BYU staples for decades.
“Food just has this way of creating memories for people,” said Wallis Rothlisberger, BYU Dining Services department secretary. “It’s really about bringing memories back for people, and I think that’s why a lot of these things … have really continued on in BYU tradition is because of those memories.”
BYU Creamery ice cream
BYU’s famous ice cream dates back to 1948, when the university had a dairy agriculture program that worked with the Creamery to develop products and feed students, according to Rothlisberger.
The BYU community consumed 191,930 gallons of ice cream in the 2014-15 academic year, according to BYU Dining Service’s most updated figures. If this amount were divided into half gallon cartons and stacked end to end, it would be 26 times the height of Y Mountain.
The BYU Creamery creates about four different flavors per year, including one for each incoming freshman class, many of which are inspired by recommendations from customers and others. The top five most popular Creamery ice cream flavors in order are Vanilla, Graham Canyon, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Earnestly Chocolate.
The Creamery also has traditionally honored BYU presidents and sports coaches with their own ice cream flavors, such as Woosh Cecil, Rose’s Sneakerdoodle and Cherry Rockwood.
“Our first ice cream named after anyone was LaVell’s Vanilla,” said Dean Wright, BYU Dining Services director. “I had the opportunity to go to him and I said, ‘Coach, what’s your favorite flavor? We want to make it here at BYU,’ and he said, ‘My favorite flavor is vanilla,’ because he said you can put any topping on it that you want.”
BYU Dining Services is currently developing a new Creamery ice cream based on President Kevin J Worthen’s favorite flavors. The Creamery also has plans to start making gelato, which will be sold exclusively at BYU’s new engineering building cafe.
BYU’s signature mint brownies came about in the early 1960s, developed by Myrle Cloward, who was then the university’s dining assistant director and head of catering.
“Brownies were very popular at that time, and (she) wanted a brownie that would reflect something different, and so decided to put the layer of mint,” Wright said. “There were other brownies that were mint brownies, but they were usually a chocolate brownie with a chocolate icing with a little bit of mint swirled on top, but the layer of mint was very unique to BYU.”
Though the unique mint flavoring has never changed, the brownie recipe has been altered to create a more cake-like or chewy texture as brownie tastes have changed over the years, according to Wright. He said today’s BYU Mint Brownie recipe is “a nice blend between the two.”
BYU now produces 140,800 mint brownies annually, which is enough for both the entire Provo population and BYU student body to eat one. From beginning to end, it takes 10 students to make a mint brownie, Wright said.
When you taste chocolate milk from the BYU Creamery, you’re tasting history, Rothlisberger said. The BYU Creamery’s chocolate milk recipe has stayed the same since 1948, made with chocolate from Switzerland and fresh milk from a local dairy farm in Elberta, Utah.
“When you taste our chocolate milk, you’re tasting exactly what your grandparents would’ve had when they came to BYU,” Wright said.
Milk, including both white and chocolate, is the No. 1 seller in BYU’s vending machines, according to Wright. BYU also has developed other flavors including cookies and cream, and orange-flavored milk. The BYU community consumed 70,572 gallons of Creamery chocolate milk in the 2014-15 academic year, which is enough to fill one and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools.
“We’re the Stone-Cold Sober school for, what, 20 years now running?” Wright said. “What other school can say that milk is their No. 1 thing? But it is at BYU. We think that’s great.”
When BYU Dining Services took over concessions at LaVell Edwards Stadium in the early 2000s after outside food was prohibited for security reasons, Wright was determined to create a unique BYU-specific item that no one else could have. As he walked into the Wilkinson Student Center one day, the idea hit him.
“I just saw the tail of the cougar, and it’s nice and tan, and I thought, ‘Wonder if we could create a doughnut that was 16 to 18 inches long that would represent the cougar tail,’ ” Wright said. “Maple bars have always been my favorite doughnut.”
Wright and his wife then experimented with the idea at home, Wright brought the recipe to BYU and the Cougar Tail was born. Cougar fans consumed 35,904 Cougar Tails in the 2014-15 football season, which if lined up end to end would equal the distance from LaVell Edwards Stadium to Bridal Veil Falls.
“It’s amazing how Cougar Tails have become synonymous with BYU Athletics,” Wright said.
BYU’s Y Sparkle soda was born in the 1950s during a time when the university made all of its own fountain drinks.
“The one that seems to continue because it’s its own real flavor profile that no one else has got has been the Y Sparkle,” Wright said. “It was to be a flavor that could go different colors.”
The drink has traditionally been served at wedding receptions, holidays and other special occasions.
“I’ve seen it around at New Year’s time. It’s like an alternative almost to Martinelli’s, that sparkling apple cider, that’s really how people use it,” Rothlisberger said.
Satisfying the local sweet tooth
Through their many years of history, these signature treats have become not only favorites at BYU, but among Utah County residents and BYU alumni in general as well.
“Come here on a Wednesday when missionaries are entering the MTC and see them and their families lined up to have an ice cream once before they go, I think that speaks of the county,” Wright said. “We have a lot of graduates in Utah County, and I think that just ties them back home to who we are. I love the signs that Provo has with the ‘Welcome home,’ and to a very small degree, I think when you taste something of BYU, when you have a taste of BYU, it’s kind of like, ‘Welcome home.’ ”