The Tater Tot Method

Tater tots

Tater Tots. Yum. Most everyone I know loves them. Some more than others.  Some, maybe too much. Case in point:

Napolean tots

They are a must have at Sonic, and most children who grew up eating school lunches have eaten their bodyweight in tots. They always had a special place in my home growing up, and not just on top of casseroles.

But where did they come from? Who was the genius who figured out how to make these tasty little potato nuggets?  My ancestors – that’s who.

Yes, my Mom was a Grigg, and her father’s name was Parley P. Grigg. He had a lot of siblings, but two of them are key to this post: Nephi Grigg, and Golden Grigg. They were my mom’s uncles, and thusly, my great uncles. They claim to fame? They were the founders of Ore-Ida potatoes, and the inventors of the legendary Tater Tots. This is Uncle Nephi:

Nephi Grigg

Early on the Grigg brothers began to dominate the frozen potato industry by providing 25% of the country’s frozen potatoes. But that wasn’t enough for Nephi. He was a frugal man, and it bothered him to see that the potato scraps that were left after the french fries were cut were just being sold off as food for cattle. Then he had an idea.

He took the potato scraps, mixed them with seasoned flour and made a mush mixture. He then pushed (“extruded”) the potato mash through 3/8 inch holes drilled into a piece of plywood. They would chop them off in chunks and fry them up. Viola – Tater Tots.

Basically, they took what was almost waste and turned it into something worthwhile.  Oddly, after a successful debut, Tater Tots didn’t sell very well. People liked them, but considered them “too cheap.” So, the Griggs simply raised the price, and suddenly, people started buying them.

I title this post “The Tater Tot Method,” and I will try to define it before I move on – it is basically this:

To make Tater Tots, you take the remaining pieces of what others may consider trash, season them, reform them by extruding them, and cooking them, to end up with something of much greater value than what you started out with.

As I was thinking through this idea, many scriptural and doctrinal ideas ran through my head. Here are a few. (I’m not going to connect all the dots, you need to do part of this.)

Slicing and Dicing:

My mind immediately turns to Elder Hugh B. Brown’s classic story of the currant bush. (link) The basic idea is that you need to be chopped down by the Gardener once in a while to become strong and productive. Yes, it can be painful.


My thoughts turned to the parable of the prodigal son, and how he reached a point in his life where he was so shattered that he felt he was of no worth, and was to the point where he was willing to eat the scraps that were tossed to the pigs. (Luke 15)

Being Formed:

Where did Tater Tots come from My ancestors, that’s who. You are welcome. (Isaiah 64:8)

“Any man or woman who enjoys the Master’s touch is like potter’s clay in his hands.” (President James E. Faust)

“Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.” (Elder Bruce D. Porter)


The word “gethsemane” means “olive press.” The olive press is a device used to “extrude” the oil from the olives. Once crushed, those olives release oil that can be used for food, medicine, and various other things. “Pure olive oil, once consecrated, takes on a singular purpose; the healing of the sick and afflicted.  It no longer is to be used for regular tasks but has been elevated to a higher cause and calling.  Its one purpose is to offer help and healing to those who suffer under burdens.” (Scot Aubrey)

Seasoning: (You know that tots have to be salty to be good.)

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)

“When men are called into mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men;

“They are called to be the savor of men” (D&C 101:39–40; italics added).

The word savor denotes taste, pleasing flavor, interesting quality, and high repute.” (Carlos A. Asay)


John Taylor is quoted as saying, “We have learned many things through suffering. We call it suffering. I call it a school of experience. … I have never looked at these things in any other light than trials for the purpose of purifying the Saints of God that they may be, as the scriptures say, as gold that has been seven times purified by the fire” (link)

“Tempered glass, like tempered steel, undergoes a well-controlled heating process which increases strength. Thus, when tempered glass is under stress, it will not easily break into jagged shards that can injure.” (Elder Kent D. Watson)

These are just a few of the thoughts that an through my head as I was dissecting the creation of a Tater Tot. I’m sure you will think of many more.

For us, the “Tater Tot Method” is more about becoming who we are meant to be – or who God wants us to be. And it can be difficult.

• There will be times when we are being sliced and diced, and actually feel like we are nothing but garbage that should be discarded. That process can be painful, and humbling, but like the currant bush, it is not always a bad thing.

• There will be times when we can feel the Masters hand in our lives, molding us, adding to what we are, forming us in the shape he wants us to be in. This can be difficult as well, especially if we fight against the extrusion process.

• We are meant to be the “salt of the earth” and to have savor, so that others notice. We are to retain our savor – our taste, our quality, our high repute.

• It is necessary for us to face the fire that will temper us and move us closer to becoming pure and strong.

“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10) Sure, we an feel like scraps, like garbage, but that does not mean that we are scraps and garbage. God has a better plan for us. Sure, it might take some cutting and mashing and extruding and heat, but the end result can be far better than we ever imagined.

“In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks)

“An axiom we all understand is that you get what you pay for. That is true for spiritual matters as well. You get what you pay for in obedience, in faith in Jesus Christ, in diligent application of the truths you learn. What you get is the molding of character, the growth in capacity, and the successful completion of your mortal purpose to be proven and to have joy.” (Elder Richard G. Scott)

Christ asked “What manner of men ought we to be?”  His answer could have simply been, “Better. I want you to be better.”  Instead, he answered, “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27)

Christ understands the idea of “becoming,” and he is willing to help us do the same.

 “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictionsand temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loosethe bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11)

Comments are welcome.  So are Tater Tots.


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  1. My friend sends me selections of your writings. You have a wonderful gift! You’re so uplifting and honest. Refreshing!!!I’m signing up for your site!

  2. You. Is. Importent. Related to the TaterTot guys. I love those. And your analogy is cool. Being a Southern girl myself, I may have to translate that with grits. ..!

  3. It’s this part of the tater tot method that has me thinking: People liked them, but considered them “too cheap.” So, the Griggs simply raised the price, and suddenly, people started buying them. How oftern are we determining value by looking at the wrong thing? Hmmmm…. lots to think about.

  4. “Uncle Nephi’s Confectionery” in Pocatello Idaho was my great grandfather. The first son born in America after joining the church & immigrating here. . I wonder if Sam’s kids thought the same thing when they heard “uncle Nephi”, they were about to get fed, one way or another. When I was struggling with going on a mission, he didn’t say a word. Just gave me that look …. and a month later I was ordained an elder. Dang it … there is something in my eye

  5. GReat analogy! And once again, I’m stealing this for Seminary-I’m teaching the Prodigal Son this week!

  6. My Grandpa worked for Ore-Ida and helped invent the tater tot machine! Great analogies.

  7. You do such a good job in relating a seemingly unimportant topic to gospel principles. I enjoy your regular blogs so much.

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