When the cold weather snaps, you can bet your woolly socks that Jan Olpin is hard at work cooking up pure deliciousness.
I remember as a child, perching on a bench, with a burger and fries, in Dairy Keen’s little brick building, watching the train go round and round. This was a novelty that just never got old. It still hasn’t. This year marks the family’s 75th Anniversary of Heber’s Dairy Keen — Home of the Train. A good burger is always a hit, but don’t overlook the ‘soup-erb’ menu additions that roll in the first of October and warm us through the beginning of April. During the valley’s chilly months, Jan Olpin, the self-proclaimed Soup Nazi, and co-owner of Dairy Keen, will be whipping up batches of 42 unique in-house, made-from-scratch soups to warm and fill your belly daily. The soup making begins each morning at 8:00 and is ready to ladle by 11:00.
The family opened Dairy Keen seasonally until 1980 when they transitioned to year round service. It was those cold winter months that inspired Jan’s soup obsession, “We wanted something to eat for ourselves, because you can really only eat so many hamburgers. So I decided, okay, I guess I’ll just make soup.” At first they were in their old building making the soup on a hot plate. It took hours. When they created plans for their current building they included a 4-burner stove dedicated to soup.
Jan’s imagination is manifested in the soup menu. Jan was diagnosed with celiac disease, making her gluten-free. She would hear about soups or see soups, but never be able to taste them. Using her imagination she would recreate them. It is exceptionally hard to find cream soups that are gluten-free . . . not to mention taste decent. Jan’s secret is finely ground rice flour. She snuck the rice flour into her soups, and then asked on the sly how they tasted. Remarkably, not one soul could tell the difference. All 42 of Jan’s soup creations can be ordered gluten-free, including every cream soup your heart desires. A cream soup is served daily, in addition to one or two other kinds.
Everywhere Jan goes she imagines soups! Her son loved a popular restaurant chain’s Broccoli Alfredo dish. Jan thought, “I could make a soup out of that!” A few favorite dishes she’s converted to soup include Stuffed Bell Pepper, Cream Potato & Pea, Turkey Pot Pie, Loaded Baked Potato, and Pot Roast Soup, “It’s like Sunday dinner in a bowl.” At one point there was even a Funeral Potato soup! That one is now retired. Jan chuckles, “It was too weird.” It came with a bag of baked cornflakes as garnish. If you’ve never experienced Utah Funeral Potatoes, think Au Gratin Potatoes, but instead of sliced spuds, they are cubed or shredded, and topped with Cornflakes and melted butter. Customers who didn’t know what to do with the bag of cereal clearly weren’t from Utah! Jan has a number of fun mix-ins for her unique creations including goldfish crackers, home-made pie crust, and even a scoop of mashed potatoes to top the Shepherd’s Pie soup.
Soup calendars roll out monthly. You can sign up online to receive them via email or walk into Dairy Keen and take one from the front counter. If that’s not handy enough, give them a call and listen to the daily recording or drive by for a look at the marquee. Chicken Enchilada, Cream of Broccoli, Tomato Beef Macaroni, and Clam Chowder are served weekly. The other 38 vary from month to month based on popularity and special occasions. Clam Chowder is served in accordance to Catholic tradition of “Fish Fridays.” Mulligatawny is THE curry soup featured in the 1990’s sitcom Seinfeld, that the show’s Soup Nazi gets heated up over. It is served once in November. Give it a try! Chinese Chicken Noodle, the most labor intensive soup, with bok choy, carrots, pea pods, and noodles, is served only on Chinese New Year, which falls on February 1, 2022.
Belly up to a steamy bowl of Jan’s imaginative soups this season! While you’re there be sure to take a gander at their 75th Anniversary display.
Lila Mae Johnson
Local resident Lila Mae Johnson bakes Swiss Bread daily for Dairy Keen. She is 90 years old and has baked homemade Swiss Bread for 50 years. She is still dusting her bread board with flour and rolling out 12 loaves each morning at 4:00 a.m. You can learn how to bake bread from this remarkable lady on Dairy Keen’s website: www.dairykeen.com.
A slice of Lila Mae’s Swiss Bread with a side of Dairy Keen’s home-made raspberry jam perfectly complements any soup order.
@DairyKeen FOR DAILY SOUPS