Tale of Two Salmon Bakes: Oregon vs. Utah Style

Last week in Payson, Utah, (population 20,000) they held the annual Payson Salmon Supper, an event the town has been putting on for 64 years. By 3:45 p.m., the town park is packed with Paysonites and ringed with parked tour buses from other cities.

Payson Salmon Supper
Family Fun in Payson

This year, more than 5,000 pounds of salmon were flown from Alaska to Utah to be cooked on giant pit grills constructed across he street from the park. Payson firemen used to do all the cooking. Now it takes more manpower than Payson has firefighters, but the cooks are still dressed in firefighting gear. Payson Salmon SupperThe food lines are long, but there is hometown entertainment—music, modest bellydancing, “America the Beautiful”, etc. when you have loaded your plate with a slab of salmon, an ear of corn, a roll served by the Payson High cheerleaders, you find a table. Notice, there’s no beer or wine, this is a Utah family event. It’s over at 8 p.m.

VS Oregon Wine Country

Contrast this event with the salmon bake I attended recently in another small town: McMinnville, Oregon (population 34,000). This event, the culmination of the 3-day International Pinot Noir Celebration, started at 7, an hour before the Utah one ended. Guests stood in the cool grass sipping their Minerals Springs Brut Rose until the gates opened, then found their way to the reserved cloth-covered and fully set table. A formally dressed server started filling the glasses and never stopped.

Payson Salmon Supper
McMinnville, Oregon is true wine country. As you can see.

On one side of the Linfield College park, a green space with giant oaks dappling the sunlight, not too different from Payson’s town square, whole sides of salmon were cooking slowly over a long firepit with lively flames.

Payson Salmon Supper
We’re not in Utah anymore.

Not far was a double buffet laden with the cooked salmon, standing rib roast, and a dozen chef-created side dishes. A mellow jazz trio started the evening and after the meal, folks strolled from table to table, making friends, sharing tastes of pinot noir wines from all over the world, dancing the night away in the cool Oregon evening, wineglass in hand.

Payson Salmon supper

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Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Maloufhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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