One book leads to another...

Friday, April 17, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - O

I don’t think my great-grandma ever quite approved of the butter alternative known as Oleomargarine. I think she thought it was bogus. Often, she called it Oleo for short in much the same tone as she’d tell a begging dog to go lay down.  But, as no one else seemed to mind the spreadable mixture of beef fat and milk, she begrudgingly placed it on the table for us at every meal. I wonder if she knew the alternative dairy product idea almost didn’t make it out of the lab.

Two French chemists tried to develop and sell it, to no avail, before Napolean III came along in 1869, and even he had little success. When at last a Dutch company, experienced in marketing, realized that a substitute for butter should at least look like butter, a yellow dye was put into use, and there was no looking back until they tried to sell it in America.

Dairy Farmers of America were outraged and demanded that higher than average taxes be assessed on the product, and successfully lobbied for restrictions that banned the use of yellow dyes that made margarine look more appealing. By 1900, artificially-colored butter was contraband in 30 states. The only country with stronger restrictions was Canada, which banned the product altogether. Once wartime butter shortages forced a switch to Oleo, people decided it wasn’t so bad after all, and by 1950 most bans and restrictions were lifted in both countries, with the exception of Canada’s prohibition of yellow dye which was lifted in 2008.

Interestingly, my great-grandma was French-Canadian!
When I began this post without a specific topic to talk about, I figured it would be a sort of hodgepodge or Olio, the vintage word for mixture, or mixed-bag of say, topics for the letter O! Now that I’ve “gone on” a bit, I’ll leave it at two ;-)

Twenty years ago, 400 shards of pottery found in Sicily were painstakingly pieced together to form what turned out to be a jar containing remnants of 700-year-old Italian Olive Oil!

Optimism is not only good for physical and emotional well-being; it’s contagious. By all means, let’s share!

It’s been a beautiful day here in the desert. I hope it was where you are too!


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Happy "O" Day, dear friend!

    "I can't believe it's not butter!" Ever since I can remember I have disliked and avoided butter, margarine, Oleo and similar spreads. Mrs. Shady uses butter in many recipes and that's AOK with me but, for some reason, I don't like the look and texture of those spreads nor do I like foods with sketchy ingredients. It's interesting how color additives alone can transform a poor selling product into one that reminds consumers of a popular product, enabling it to catch on and become a standard commodity in households. Imitation works and sells. Think of all the soundalike recordings that performed well on the chart because they reminded listeners of a familiar hit.

    Mrs. Shady has 700 year old bottles of Olive Oil, mayonnaise and other food products pushed to the back of our refrigerator. :)

    In 2014 Mrs. Shady and I drove through your beautiful desert southwest. I love cacti and succulents and imagine that they're in glorious bloom right now. I remain optimistic that we will return to your area on another vacation someday.

    Have a safe and happy day, dear friend diedre!

    1. Hi Shady!

      I like the imitation analogy. Two songs came to mind, and out of three bands I'm not sure who recorded first ;-)

      Ha, so I'm not the only with science projects in the fridge. Good to know.

      Do let me know if you guys get out this way again. Hey, did you see the eagle's nest in a saguaro? Wonder why it hasn't ever happened before?

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    2. We drove through Tucson's Saguaro National Park and crisscrossed Arizona as we came down from the Grand Canyon enroute to San Diego and from there over to Tucson to catch a plane to Dallas and back home. We passed many miles of pipe cactus but I didn't see any eagles nesting in them.

      Good night, dear friend diedre!

    3. The Organ Pipes are a wonder aren't they?
      I'm glad you got to see them :-)

  2. Interesting account about oleomargarine. I was never paying attention to what my mother used when I was growing up, but I'm inclined to believe it was primarily oleo since I used to hear her refer to that term.

    Now my preference is to use butter--and not too often. We've been getting products like Country Crock lately because my wife prefers the way it spreads. That's also what my mother started using after it started being marketed that way. I think that's where my wife acquired a taste for it.

    Still I like good old butter and for that, fresh is the best. Nothing like the taste and texture of fresh butter straight out of the churn.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hi Lee!

      I'll use butter when called for in recipes, but I can't tolerate ripped up bread, so I use Country Crock for that ;-)

      I've never tried butter from a churn, but a lot of folks agree with you.

      Thanks for visiting!

  3. I agree. Margarine doesn't hold a candle to real butter.

    1. Hi Liam!

      As I was just saying to Lee - haha!

      I admit, I love the taste of butter in a mashed potato bowl.

      Thanks for coming by!


Any thoughts? Join the conversation, comments welcome here!