Salt Lake City. Last month, I wrote that salt water taffy is the top-selling souvenir purchased by tourists visiting Salt Lake City, and tourists buy the stuff simply because they make a mental association between salt water taffy and the Great Salt Lake, even though there is no salt water in salt water taffy. Since then, 2 very well-educated people I know and who read my newsletter told me that purchased salt taffy at the Salt Lake City airport as souvenir gifts and assumed that it was made from Great Salt Lake water. Well, I saw the same sort of thing at Lake Tahoe last week. I was at the lake for a couple of days. While I was there, I visited a number of the souvenir stores that line Highway 50, the main street in town.

Huckleberries. Huckleberry food products were – by far – the best selling edible souvenir at Lake Tahoe. Several gift shops at South Lake Tahoe had big displays of huckleberry products, including Lake Tahoe brand huckleberry jam and jelly, huckleberry taffy, huckleberry syrup, huckleberry truffles, etc. All of them had the name of the lake on the label. However, there are no huckleberries at Lake Tahoe. They don’t grow anywhere in the Lake Tahoe basin. So why do tourists buy this stuff? It is simply because people mentally associate huckleberries with the mountains, and there are plenty of mountains at Lake Tahoe. The fact that there are no huckleberries at Lake Tahoe doesn’t matter at all.

Moose. Nearly every souvenir shop at Lake Tahoe had clothes for sale with pictures of moose on them. I also saw plenty of carved moose figurines and moose ash trays with ‘Lake Tahoe’ on them as well. People buy moose clothes at Lake Tahoe for the same reason they buy Lake Tahoe huckleberry jam. People make a mental association between moose and pine-covered mountains. However, moose are not mountain dwellers. Moose do not live in steep terrain, like mountain goats. Besides, there are no moose at Lake Tahoe. In fact, there are no moose anywhere in either Nevada or California. The nearest moose are hundreds of miles away.

Clam Chowder. I am beginning to think that this sort of thing happens at all tourist destinations. People buy souvenirs based not on what is actually there but rather based on the things that they mentally associate with the place. I suppose that is why the Number 1 selling menu item at restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and the Santa Cruz Pier is clam chowder served in a hollowed out bread bowl. However, the only restaurants in California that I am aware of that offer this dish are at places where tourists eat. It’s not a local dish. You won’t find clam chowder in a bread bowl at restaurants where native Californians eat. Besides, clam chowder is a New England dish, and New England is a long way from California. All of the clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf is made from concentrate or from imported canned clams. There is no commercial clam fishing in California.

About Salt Lake City and Salt Water Taffy.

About salt water taffy. As you know, I make candy. Most people assume that salt water taffy is made with salt water (seawater), but that isn’t true. The name of this candy is a misnomer. There is no salt water in salt water taffy. The principle ingredients in salt water taffy are sugar, cornstarch, and corn syrup. Salt water taffy got its name because most of the places that make this candy are located at seaside resorts, including Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Cape Cod. If you want to see salt water taffy being made from scratch, go to Marini’s Candies at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. They have been making this stuff there for over 100 years.

About Salt Lake City and salt water taffy. It is obvious why people mentally associate salt water taffy with Salt Lake City. Salt water taffy is the top selling souvenir at Brigham Young University’s campus store and at tourist hotel gift shops all over the area. Not only do they sell a lot of salt water taffy in Salt Lake City; they also make a lot of salt water taffy in Salt Lake City. The 2 biggest manufacturers of salt water taffy in the U.S. are both located in Salt Lake City: Taffy Town and Sweet’s Candies. Each of these companies make tons of salt water taffy every day. They make very good salt water taffy in Salt Lake City, but it isn’t made with water from the Great Salt Lake. I know a sales rep for Taffy Town, and he tells me that many of the people who visit his company’s factory store assume that their salt water taffy is made with water from the Great Salt Lake and are shocked when employees at the store tell them the truth, which is that you can’t make candy (or any other edible product) with water from the Great Salt Lake. The water in the Great Salt Lake is not potable (safe to drink.) The Great Salt Lake is a terminal lake; that is, the lake is a dead end. It has no outlet to the sea. Like the Dead Sea and most other desert terminal lakes, the water in the Great Salt Lake contains a lot of toxic materials, like mercury. I understand why tourists assume that the salt water taffy that they sell in Salt Lake City is made with water from the Great Salt Lake, but it isn’t true, and it never was. Besides, as I said, there is no salt water in salt water taffy anyway.