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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

102

"The Yellowed Menace"

The most interesting and informative polemic you are likely to read on the future of Jews and margarine, courtesy of Tablet Magazine:

The Jewish love affair with margarine started in 1911 when Procter & Gamble pushed Crisco (its new “scientific discovery”) on every housewife in America, sending free samples to grocers and having “Crisco teas,” a phrase that made me gag until I realized it was more like a Tupperware party to introduce the stuff to women rather than a new kind of drink. Make no mistake: Crisco, which is labeled as “vegetable shortening,” is margarine. Any kind of hard fat is shortening. Regular shortening, or shortening without any qualifier before it, is lard. Vegetable shortening, a term created to highlight Crisco’s vegetarian quality when it debuted, is margarine. The only problem is, throwing around the phrase “vegetable-based” is misleading. The products of the earth that exist in this stuff (cottonseed oil) aren’t really “vegetables” in any meaningful way. Crisco and margarine are vegetables about as much as a cigarette is; just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s a vegetable. But who could convince the Jews of that? They finally had a hard fat for their pastries. Crisco was an immediate hit with the kosher crowd. In the 1914 book The Story of Crisco, a smitten New York rabbi named Margolies is said to have noted that the Jews had been waiting 4,000 years for Crisco.

Butter is great, but some of us ate a lot of delicious gravy-and-margarine sandwiches when left with their grandpa, you know?



102 Comments / Post A Comment

NeenerNeener

I refuse to believe I could spread the stuff from the tub in my cabinet on bread and eat it. I just couldn't do it. Nope, not margarine.

harebell

@NeenerNeener
Well, if I understand the article, I think the difference between Crisco and margarine is like the difference between lard and butter. Key flavors are missing. Most of us wouldn't put lard directly on our bread either.

Unless I was frying my bread. Or, unless it was a deep dark rye or pumpernickel bread, and really good quality lard, with thinly sliced onions laid on top. Then I would call it "Schmalz" and say it was delicious!

Lily Rowan

@harebell But schmalz is chicken fat, right? Lard is pork fat.

harebell

@Lily Rowan
I looked it up because I had never heard of that distinction before, and in English you're right.

In German, Schmalz is just any kind of rendered fat -- bacon grease, tallow, whatever. When I've eaten it on bread, out in the country, it's usually been pork fat.

bocadelperro

@harebell oh man now you've got me thinking about that lard spread with the little bits of cracklings and chives in it. God that stuff is good....

cuminafterall

@harebell Back in my meat-eating days I tried goose fat spread on bread and oh my, it was glorious.

office of the carver@twitter

@harebell This reminds me of that time I was doing a language program in a country that will not be named in Eastern Europe. I'm not a vegetarian in the U.S., but I know enough to know that in Eastern Europe, I am (i.e., I don't eat pork). So, for the meal plan, I signed up for the vegetarian option.

One day, at lunch, at the vegetarian table we were curious what, exactly we were eating. The meat eaters got bread with meat slices. We got bread smeared with stuff. Is it cream cheese? One taste says no. What is it, all us vegetarians wondered. It's not butter. It's not margarine. Then it dawned on us. They served lard sandwiches as vegetarian. When asked, the dining hall woman (an elderly relic of the Soviet era) looked at us, quizzically, because "there is no meat on that bread."

I ate a lot of fruit that summer.

Lily Rowan

@harebell So interesting! I wonder if it's because it was mostly Yiddish or German speakers in the US who were using chicken fat for things, and they called it schmalz.

anachronistique

@Lily Rowan Yeah, my family uses the Yiddish meaning of schmaltz as chicken fat. Which means my (Catholic) dad calls his tub of bacon drippings "pig schmaltz."

SarahDances

@office of the carver@twitter Yeahhhh, in Russia, "I am a vegetarian" = "I do not eat beef or lamb." Chicken, fish, sausage, and evidently lard are all considered fair game.

Marquise de Morville

@Lily Rowan Schmalz to me is mostly pork or goose based. I really miss eating it, especially the kind the comes with fried onions.

@office of the carver@twitter I was at a conference in Germany and they served vegetable terrine as vegetarian option. The Vegetarians were not familiar with the dish, so I warned them that it was likely made with gelatine. The restaurant quickly made salads for them. (I was thrilled to get the terrine leftovers).

bocadelperro

@Marquise de Morville that stuff comes with onions in it, too?! Oh man, this is making me want to get on a plane and go back to Germany...

SarahDances

Conversation I had with an ex:
"Do you have butter?"
"I'm not sure if it's the kind you need, but you can check the tub in the fridge."

I should have known right then that we wouldn't work out.

KeLynn

@SarahDances - I use butter as well as various spreads and margarines and sprays and whatever the hell, but it drives me nuts when people refer to anything other than *actual* butter as "butter." At least call it "fake butter."

iceberg

I think margarine is great because you don't destroy your bread, snobs!
Butter is lovely but it's better for cooking or on hot foods.

ETA - I like the olive oil based margarine, because I am a sucker for marketing.

HereKitty

@iceberg Room-temperature butter. Problem solved!

iceberg

@HereKitty Nope, because if you don't use it fast enough it'll go off. (voice of experience)

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg Butter bells!

leylusha

@iceberg
Do you mean like Olivio? It lists the ingredients for its coconut oil based spread as "Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Sustainable Palm Oil, Filtered Water, sea salt, organic canola lecithin, organic guar gum."
That's not margarine! That's a brilliant transmogrified oil alternative to butter. (I guess I'm a sucker for marketing, too.)

packedsuitcase

@iceberg Just mush the butter against the side of your plate! Boom, spreadable butter. (Unless you want to move it directly to your bread without using a plate, in which case I give up because there is no argument beyond "But butter is so amazing!" which doesn't really carry any weight except for with my personal tastebuds.)

planforamiracle

@iceberg what is this "not using butter fast enough" thing? I am not familiar with this problem.
haha in all seriousness, you just leave a small amount of butter out. in a cute butter dish with its little lid!

Marquise de Morville

@leylusha I recenly bought some butter that had listed only butter, olive oil as ingredients, which was spreadable out of the fridge, but I forgot the brand name!

fondue with cheddar

@Marquise de Morville Ooh, please remember! Because even with a butter bell I don't use butter quickly enough to keep it from spoiling.

rimy

We only ate margarine in my family's old house, no butter. Fond childhood memories of slathering 1/2" thick coatings of 'honey butter' (margarine with honey flavor) onto preservative-filled store brand sandwich bread. Mm, yum.

Have discovered the glories of pasture-fresh butter and local honey on fresh-baked organic wheat bread in the past few years. so goooood help!

SarahP

@rimy My house was the opposite growing up! Real butter, always. But when I would go stay with my grandmother, she had margarine and I thought it was so tasty and intriguing!

Megasus

Most margarine also does have milk fat in it. I only know this because of what happens to my tummy when I don't get the vegan stuff (which, WHY HAS NO ONE KNOCKED THAT SHIT OFF YET IT'S BEEN LIKE 4 YEARS).

Plant Fire

@Megano! Earth balance margarine doesn't have milk fat or any other milk products. I'm not 100% sure if it's vegan (but I think it is) but I know it definitely doesn't have any milk in it, since I'm allergic to diary products and have not thrown up after spreading it on my bread.

Megasus

@Sea Ermine I know, it's not any cheaper than the Becel one though!

SarahP

@Sea Ermine All Earth Balance is vegan and it is so great.

Marquise de Morville

@Megano! I agree that something people eat to avoid milk products should not have milk product in it. Personally, I find it annoying that the majority of margarine is made from soy-bean oil.

leonstj

Is this the safe space to talk about fats?

I had hoped to use my two pound block of duck fat to make Thanksgiving extra wonderful. Being industrious, I decided to test render some and fry some potatoes Wednesday night. I had bought the duck fat a year and a half ago from a farmer who set it aside for me after a....duck preparation....and had it frozen since.

GOOD CALL. It turns out that just enough duck fat to slick the bottom of my big dutch oven. And...the smell. Oh my goodness, the smell.

This wasn't like, storebough rendered duck fat. It was the fatty trimmings from many a duck. Gristle was still involved.

Using MAYBE 3 or 4 ounces of the 32 (THIRTY TWO) I had expected to render down on Thanksgiving morning, my whole apartment smelled like a barnyard. It was the most ridiculous, gamey, outdoorsy smell ever.

Needless to say, a decision was made to leave my windows open all night, render some pork fat out of a chunk of belly to help kill the smell in my apartment, and fry the potatoes in canola.

iceberg

@leon s wait so... it didn't taste good? Duck is the best :(

leonstj

@iceberg - i mean, the test fried potatoes tasted amazing. so perfectly crispy. so fatty and good. but....

oh man, the smell of the fresh duck fat. it was as if thousands of ducks had descended upon my tiny north brooklyn abode. i just could not abide.

SarahDances

@leon s If you're looking for ways to use it in small doses, I understand that using duck/goose fat for grilled cheese sandwiches will also yield mind-blowing results. Although I don't know what to tell you about the smell.

Heat Signature

@leon s We have a restaurant in my area called "Duckfat" and it makes the BEST french fries using, yes, duckfat. Oh man I am so hungry right now I need to go get some lunch.

Faintly Macabre

@leon s The woman I'm staying with cooked a few duck wings for lunch today. Her entire kitchen smelled like cooked duck for HOURS despite having a door open and the stove fan on. Duck's revenge?

Marquise de Morville

@leon s Try making a whole duck? We traditionally make a duck for Christmas (Goose is too expensive in the US), usually a smaller duck yields about a cup or two of rendered fat after its done. We use Blonde beer to baste and rosemary in the stuffing, and the duck fat ends up delicous. We served it as drunk food on baguette to our friends one NYE.

sandwiches

@Marquise de Morville Oh god my salivary glands just went into overdrive reading this comment, like "oh did you mention duck and beer and baguettes here HAVE SOME SALIVA". Thanks for helping set the menu for my post-finals fancyish dinner with friends? But also, wow, I am a little grossed out by myself.

Marquise de Morville

@sandwiches I am glad you like it! Usually my husband and me share the duck - and he does not like the skin. Last time I made myself sick by eating it on my own... If you plan to make this for dinner keep in mind that the duck fat will likely only solidify overnight, once it was separated from the juices.

office of the carver@twitter

The history of butter and various fats is long, complicated, and entwined with a lot of religious issues, and not just for the Jews. Before regulations loosened up (beginning around the 14th century), Catholics also couldn't have butter on lean days, which were a substantial part of the year (if I'm remembering correctly, most Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and all of Lent) and instead had to use oil. This wasn't as much of a problem in southern Europe, but the quality of oil north of the Alps could be extraordinarily bad. (Italy exported the gross stuff.) You could buy dispensations to use butter during Lent (hence the Rouen Butter Tower, which is NOT as some people erroneously think a church made of butter, but a tower that was financed through the dispensations to use butter on lean days during Lent).

Martin Luther even jokes about this in 1520, noting that from the Papist perspective butter was worse than fornication. I like butter and all, but I'd take sex over butter any day. Unless maybe there was sex and butter? But thinking about the rancid butters of the pre-modern era, probably a bad idea. Probably a bad idea now, too, but if you're going to hell, it might as well be for something more fun than the consumption of gross butter. And butter in March-April (Lent time) would have been far less than ideal.

Anyway. Crisco gets a totally bad rap.

I have been waiting for a good history of butter to be published and there isn't one, which is frustrating, given the popularity of microhistories. I don't want to write it myself (other projects), so if there are any really smart PhD students in cultural history looking for a good topic, please get on it!

aphrabean

@office of the carver@twitter I have never thought "I want to know more about the history of butter!" till this very moment. Somebody please get on it indeed!

office of the carver@twitter

@aphrabean The history of butter really is fascinating! Hear that PhD students/aspiring food writers: A TOPIC PEOPLE WILL READ AND (maybe) BUY.

Hmmm. Maybe I will just do it myself. Hmmm. Book contract, someone, please?

Lisa Frank

@office of the carver@twitter Fascinating! I would definitely read a history of butter!

the roughest toughest frail

@office of the carver@twitter Please, please write this book. This is FASCINATING.

The Lady of Shalott

Oh, whatever, I like margarine and I will continue to eat it. Plain, on bread, where it is delicious. And to make my grilled cheeses and tuna melts. YUM.

Sister Administrator

Where do you guys get lard for baking in the States? In Canada there is a product called Tenderflake, and pastry just isn't the same with anything else. I need to make butter tarts. Non-vegetarian, (very) non-kosher, non-halal butter tarts!

Once I tried some Mexican stuff in a green-and-white box, but it scared me because it was labeled "shelf-stable" and anyway it smelled kind of like bacon, so it wasn't going to work.

bocadelperro

@Sister Administrator have you tried snow cap (teal blue and white box/tub) it's the go-to lard for southern pie crusts. it's usually near the butter in the cold case.
http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10052&productId=370449

SarahP

@Sister Administrator This is coming from a vegan, so obviously, HUGE grain of salt here, but I thought lard was supposed to be shelf stable.

Sister Administrator

@bocadelperro Oh, thank you! I will look for that (awesome box design)!

bocadelperro

@Sister Administrator Haha. The box is awesome, I admit. I have always wanted to buy a big tub of it, (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Morrell-Snow-Cap-Lard-8-lb/12444000) so I could use the tub around the house, but I just don't make that many pie crusts or tortillas.

Sister Administrator

@SarahP Hah, probably. I just had never seen it labeled that way...

bocadelperro

@Sister Administrator IIRC (and I am no expert, I'm just a hobby baker) lard is like butter and eggs (and a bunch of other things) in that it can be kept at room temperature, but lasts longer if it's kept cold.

Sensory Homoncula

@Sister Administrator -- remembering stove top sets -- labeled Salt, Pepper, and Drippings. When the frugal housekeeper fried up meat, she would pour off the liquified fat for later use.

Decca

That article was interesting, but it's missing a crucial Coffee Talk with Linda Richman /Barbra Streisand reference. "Her voice is...like buttah."

fondue with cheddar

@Decca REMEMBER THE ONE WHERE BARBRA SHOWED UP?

the roughest toughest frail

@Decca "Like two sticks of buttah bound together in a rough hewn manner!"

fondue with cheddar

I posted this in a comment a few days ago on a previous post, but it was really late and nobody read it, but it's more relevant now, so...

I grew up on margarine. The only time I ever had butter was at my grandparents' house, which was a special treat. One time I was at a catered barbecue where they had those little foil-wrapped pats of butter and I grabbed a handful. And I ate them all, letting each one melt on my tongue in all their glorious butteriness.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar I call those Paula Dean breath mints.

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Haha. It's funny you should mention her, because my boyfriend and I passed a billboard this weekend advertising her at some casino. And I said to him, "Who the heck is Paula Deen?" He didn't know either. We didn't think she was a singer, he said she looks friendly, like maybe a talk show host? Then we both immediately said, "cooking show". I thought it was funny that we both said it, because we really had no idea. Then I looked her up on my phone and sure enough, we were right. Of course it's possible that we've seen her before and subconsciously remembered, but I like to think that we just have amazing powers of deduction.

planforamiracle

@fondue with cheddar I got that comment in my inbox and shuddered with deviant pleasure.

fondue with cheddar

@planforamiracle Why didn't you respond? Then we could have shuddered with deviant pleasure together! Um...in a platonic way. BUTTERRRRR.

planforamiracle

@fondue with cheddar I was on my phone and the hairpin gets buggy sometimes. but... butttterrrrrr :)

fondue with cheddar

@planforamiracle Yeah, it's bad on my phone sometimes, too. Wasn't there talk awhile back about making a smartphone-friendly site? I hope that's still happening!

AmandathePanda

My Jewish not-quite-mother-in-law HATES butter, so we had margarine at Thanksgiving and I was bitter. I don't think it has anything at all to do with religion, because she has never kept kosher, and more to do with her bizarre hatred of anything that tastes good. She hated the buttermilk rolls because they smelled buttery. She doesn't like sugar cookies because they taste buttery. She doesn't like fun because butter.

lisma

@AmandathePanda

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@AmandathePanda I had the opposite reaction of your almost-MIL the other day when I was eating mediocre chocolate chip cookies. While normally I won't waste my time on such fare, I continued to eat them because every once in a while I got a hint of buttery goodness.

KeLynn

@AmandathePanda - I buy butter extract to use on top of actual butter in baked goods. BECAUSE BUTTER.

ThatWench

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose
I keep having cases where friends make chocolate chip cookies that are not 50% butter, and then keep calling them "amazing". And I'm getting better about keeping my mouth shut at these times, but I worry that it will be a long-term detriment to our friendship, because how could they be so wrong about something so obvious?

the angry little raincloud

@AmandathePanda Possibly surprisingly, butter-flavored Crisco makes outstanding chocolate chip cookies (following the Toll House recipe on the back of the bag). Seriously. That shit's better than butter for that purpose.

Verity

@AmandathePanda According to my mother (a nurse), "Butter kills". Thus, we only have margarine-like oil-based spreads at home (well, butter to cook with, on occasion), which I have not eaten since I was about four, because it is awful. Your almost-mother-in-law and my mother should hang out and bond over not eating butter.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@ThatWench You're making your own bed here; speak up or forever hold your butterless peace.

lalaura

The answer to this dilemma is coconut oil! Vegan, mostly solid at room temperature, and less fake than margarine.

Plant Fire

@lalaura Are there any other oils that work for this? I can't eat diary but I'd prefer something more buttery than using earth balance (which is what I currently use). Sadly coconut (and coconut oil and any coconut products) make me insanely nauseated....is there another similar oil that would work for baking that you know of?

lalaura

@Sea Ermine Goddess of dietary intolerances Elana suggests grapeseed oil:
http://www.elanaspantry.com/tag/grapeseed-oil/

Plant Fire

@lalaura ooooh thanks I will try that next time I bake!

Lisa Frank

Butter. The secret ingredient is always butter. It is never margarine.

bocadelperro

@Lisa Frank You don't lie. I'm a hobby baker, and most everybody loves my cakes. Sometimes the secret ingredient is egg yolks or sour cream, but, yeah, it's usually butter.

Bittersweet

@Lisa Frank Yep. I grew up with Mazola margarine, i.e. trans-fat central (my poor mother, trying to do the healthy thing for her kids). Never going back.

And you know what? More expensive butter tastes better. Jettison the store brand in this case, guys.

ClogginBoydCrowder

@Bittersweet Kerrygold!

thebestjasmine

@Lisa Frank Seriously. Why would you put anything other than butter on bread or in baked goods? (except for like, a religious or allergic reason) I mean, lard, okay, but otherwise no. Just no.

Beatrix Kiddo

Since the last time I saw margarine was at my (misguided health-nut) grandmother's house years ago, I was under the impression margarine had gone out of style, especially considering it's worse for you than butter. People still eat it? Is it much, much cheaper than butter?

lisma

@Beatrix Kiddo I think it is just much, much more spreadable.

Lily Rowan

@Beatrix Kiddo I had margarine in my house when I was dating a vegan (and for a long time after that, because I am NOT a vegan!).

KeLynn

@Beatrix Kiddo My boyfriend insists on "fake butters." I still keep butter around for baking or for cooking things for myself or company, but on a day-to-day basis as a household, we use margarine or vegetable spreads or whatever.

ThatWench

@Beatrix Kiddo The "discovery" of trans fats in margarine sums up for me my avoidance of the "diet" or "lite" version of most every food, and people continue to not understand my point when I point it out. I get a lot of "but, now they've taken it out, so what's the problem?"

Plant Fire

@Beatrix Kiddo I eat it because I'm allergic to diary (only some margarine brands are diary free but those are what I use) but otherwise I don't know any reason to use margarine. I think some people think it's healthier but those are the same people who think diet soda is healthier than cheese (nice quality cheese, not like, american cheese) because cheese has fat in it.

Verity

@Sea Ermine A girl in my Food Tech class at school didn't believe that sugar is fattening, because "it doesn't have fat in it!".

crisisalert

My family always had margarine, especially for Shabbat dinners where we couldn't use butter on the challah. Not a consideration for desserts, though - who bakes desserts for every shabbas dinner?? Anyway, my mom says that if a recipe calls for butter, that means it needs butter. Margarine is not a baking substitute.

anachronistique

In college I took a Chemistry of Foods class to fill my science requirement, and lab was great because half the time it was baking or cooking. And one time all the different sets of lab partners made miniature batches of chocolate chip cookies with different fats - butter, margarine, various other substitutes. Butter was best, margarine was okay, I don't remember all of the rest. Except: the extremely low-whatever "spread" cookies looked like puddles of dog barf. They may not have actually solidified in the oven.

BosomBuddy

I grew up on margarine. Though I generally prefer butter these days, every time I go home I eat margarine, mostly because it's delicious and continues to be the predominant fat.

Eversweet represent!

 
SarahP

@When robot unicorns attack Not all margarine contains hydrogenated fats.

SarahP

@SarahP Oh SarahP, stop talking to yourself about margarine.

RNL
RNL

@SarahP Aha sorry. I got myself twisted up in random internet research on the laws on hydrogenated fat and trans fat, and decided I didn't have time, and deleted in haste.

You're right! I think where the real threat, in countries without laws, is the margarine/hydrogenated fats in processed foods and baked goods. Muffins will kill you, folks! I think. Or something.

SlightlyOverboard

Can we talk about foods exclusively eaten with grandfathers? For me it was strawberry preserves with cream. Not fresh strawberries, no, preserves from a carton and it was delicious.

iceberg

@SlightlyOverboard No grandpa, but my granny used to feed us dinner, dessert, and a post-dessert candy bar. Basically textbook loving-with-food.

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