Quick Hit: It’s Almost as if Fat Tastes Good

According to The Guardian, a panel of nutritionists and dietitians have reviewed a bunch of celebrity chefs’ cookbooks and declared them dangerously! full! of! killer! fats! 

The report, The Guilty Secret of Celebrity Chefs, published today by The Fat Panel, analysed the saturated fat content of a variety of starters, main courses, side orders and desserts from popular cookbooks. It warns that people eating these dishes regularly could be putting their lives at serious risk by bumping up their saturated fat intake.

…Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver are given overall approval, but they are admonished for their frequent use of butter. Burton-Race and Rick Stein are criticised for being “keen to use high saturated fat ingredients constantly”, and Nigella Lawson is criticised for using butter instead of margarine in her egg and bacon pie, with a single serving brimming with 36g of fat.

The report says some simple swaps can make a dramatic difference to saturated fat content, without adversely affecting the overall flavour and food experience. 

Take all that in. Got it? Now, please appreciate the next sentence in the article:

 The panel – which receives funding from the UK’s Margarine and Spreads Association – suggests that consumers use stronger cheese and low-fat polyunsaturated or mono-unsaturated spreads instead of butter.

I’m reading this whole thing like, “Wait, isn’t the jury still out on butter vs. margarine? And hasn’t everybody heard that at this point? Why does this make no mention of that? OH I SEE.”

That little fun fact also makes this beauty make a whole lot more sense:

Nigella Lawson is criticised for using butter instead of margarine in her egg and bacon pie, with a single serving brimming with 36g of fat.

Yes, clearly butter is the culprit responsible for jacking up the saturated fat content of EGG AND BACON PIE. Remember to flavor your bacon pie with a “heart-healthy spread,” folks!

Also, I love that there’s only one nod to why these celebrity chefs are wantonly using butter in all their recipes, which comes from chef Jean-Christophe Novelli’s spokesperson’s response: “Jean-Christophe puts his recipes together for flavour, to give people an exciting eating experience.” You don’t say. It’s almost as if celebrity chefs get to be celebrities (in part) because their recipes taste really good, which is because they use ingredients that taste really good. As always, the refrain here is that the poor, ignorant public JUST DOESN’T KNOW how bad food is for them, and they must be informed!

No, actually, we heard you the first eleventy billion times — it’s just that butter and heavy cream still taste better than any of the suggested substitutions. And since y’all change your mind about which foods are going to kill us on, like, a weekly basis, we might as well live it up.

150 thoughts on “Quick Hit: It’s Almost as if Fat Tastes Good

  1. Wait, I thought the devil invented transfats to make us all obese, and we were to avoid them like the plague? Isn’t margarine out?

    I guess we should all just play it safe and not eat any fat whatsoever.

  2. A friend of mine who runs a catering company once told me how much he hated Paula Deen. “Of course her recipes taste good, using all that cream and butter.” He sounded honestly disgusted by that.

    I made a note then and there not to patronize his catering company.

    He’s definitely one of the body facists. He’s nice to me, but he can be quite snotty about other peoples’ weights, so I’m not fooled.

  3. GGR, I live near Savannah and have eaten at PD’s restaurant. The cream and butter I like. Unfortunately, Ms. Deen (or rather, the kitchen at her restaurant) overuses salt. Not a big fan of her food.

  4. Another thing with Nigella Lawson’s recipes is that – in contrast to almost every other cookbook writer – she tends to under- rather than over-estimate how many people her recipes serve. She provides for second helpings and ample leftovers. So a “portion” of Nigella’s pie might be two or three times the amount you’d actually eat in a sitting.

    I once cooked her chocolate fudge cake (“Serves 10, or 1 with a broken heart”) for a party that turned out to be better attended than I’d thought. It stretched to 30 without much problem. So I do recommend her cookbooks if you can get over her slightly annoying writing style.

  5. When I read that line about Nigella Lawson’s egg and bacon pie being so fatty entirely because she (ZOMG!) uses real butter, I laughed out loud and wondered to myself who the hell funded the study. Lo and behold, it’s the margarine cartel!

    One thing consistently missed in studies like these is the fact that full fat products satisfy hunger more quickly, so most of us don’t sit there bingeing on them all day trying to feel full. If I have a slice of cake using real butter and real eggs, then one slice is usually enough to fill me up pretty darn well. Ones made with margarine (in addition to being greasier in overall feel and flavor) keep me trying to get the satisfaction by going back for what my mouth and body expect of a slice of cake.

    As a lifelong baker, about the only thing I use margarine for over butter is grilled cheese sandwiches, because you get a hint of butter flavor at a much higher smoke point, so you’re less likely to burn your sandwich. But for pies, cakes, cookies, etc. it’s real butter all the freaking way.

    Oh, and I’m baking a cake today….and I’m using REAL BUTTER AND EGGS AND SUGAR, MWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!!!!!

    (diabolical laughter, even more diabolical acting)

  6. Also, I have been eating SO MUCH BUTTER lately that the Fat Panel representing Margarine Interests would be speechless with horror if they knew! Ha!

  7. margarine has no less caloric than butter in general and if it is it’s full of a bunch of artificial crap that scares me a hell of a lot more than some good ol’ fashioned fat and in general magarine in any case IS indeed an much less healthy fat than butter.

    there are some spreads these days that aren’t the old-fashioned kind that do have healthier fats, that include omega 3s that are undeniably good for us. but they are strangely created highly processed products.

    in any case I’m all about natural whole food and nothing beats butter…it is a natural food…though for me it’s gotta be organic and hormone free! (this is my trip…not putting it on anyone else)

    I’m a health food freak in terms of eating whole unprocessed foods and I love butter and eat it all I want. Fat is not an enemy…

  8. I am very much interested in this egg and bacon pie of Nigella’s. I adore her cooking shows and totally have a girl crush on her.

  9. Twistie- hell yeah. If you go to the trouble of baking a cake rather than buying one prepacked, you want it to taste fantastic. I wouldn’t make a cake with marg any more than I would make a mousse out of doggy chocs. (And if I’m cooking for vegans, I find a recipe that uses oil.)

  10. Just as an experiment one time, when they first started saying margarine was better than butter for health reasons, I tried making some tollhouse cookies with margarine. No way in hell will I ever repeat that experience. The cookies did not turn out nearly as tasty, the texture was off, and the cookies burned on the bottom but weren’t done in the middle. Nope, when it comes to cooking, I want the real thing, butter all the way.

  11. and let’s not forget about all those cancer causing agents that are in those things we should be substituting with.

    so, when i don’t die – TODAY! – because i’m fat fat fat, i’ll die tomorrow because of cancer. but at least i’ll be thin.

    right?!

  12. Another thing with Nigella Lawson’s recipes is that – in contrast to almost every other cookbook writer – she tends to under- rather than over-estimate how many people her recipes serve.

    Just to add another, I love the Moosewood cookbooks, and they tend to have accurate-to-generous serving sizes. If they say a meal feeds six, then we really do end up getting at least six one-person-sized meals out of it. And my 6’5″ husband has a huge appetite, and we still end up getting the number of servings they say we’ll get most of the time.

  13. As my best friend said this week when told she was too far along for an epidural, “You are BULLSHITTING me!”

    Really, fat tastes good? And that’s why chefs use it? Had no idea. I thought it was to make all of us into teh fatty mcfattersons.

  14. Speaking of butter (I do not allow margarine in my house, and as a child we only had margarine around for greasing pans), does anyone know if you can substitute melted butter for the vegetable oil that seems to be called for in every single Carrot Cake recipe? I know it works for muffins (many of which also call for vegetabel oil).

    It just freaks me out, adding cups of oil to my baking.

  15. JPLum – it would probably work fine, but butter obviously solidifies as it cools so a cake made with butter might feel slightly harder and drier than it should if the recipe calls for oil, especially if you live somewhere cold or refrigerate it. I’d try it and see, or maybe use a nut oil if that feels less icky than an all-purpose frying oil? Walnut oil rocks in carrot cakes.

  16. JPlum, I’d try a mixture of melted butter and applesauce. The first for the fat flavor and the second for the moisture. My mom had some recipes that called for cups and cups of oil, which she turned into half-applesauce / half-oil and they would still leave little oil stains on the napkins, so they definitely still had enough fats to taste great.

  17. and let’s not forget about all those cancer causing agents that are in those things we should be substituting with.

    Right, because everything causes cancer! Or cures it. Of course, it’s not just the “unnatural” foods that apparently cause cancer, it’s unprocessed foods, too. Just a different one every day. You’re doomed no matter what!

    JPlum, you can probably do it with butter, I’d do a test run! It might be better, or it might be too rich or not quite bake the same way.

    Oo oo should we have the lard vs. vegetable shortening conversation now? LARD all the way!! So delicious! (Unless you’re veggie, of course. Well, it still might be delicious, then, but there would be other problems.)

  18. Julia Child, my new hero, uses butter on everything. Seriously, everything. So I’ve begun using more butter, rather than a sliver of olive oil. And you know what? Things taste better with butter.
    (My favorite recipe – she says something along the lines of “People think potatoes have lots of calories – they don’t!” And then she adds a layer of sausage, heavy cream, eggs, and tops the whole thing with cheese. God, Julia is awesome.
    I would pay good money to see Gordon Ramsey snap when someone told him to, say, substitute eggz for eggs and margarine for butter, and toasted soy bits for bacon.

  19. Ooo this reminds me to take out that butter to soften for chocolate chip cookies! Thanks :D I grew up having to eat Country Crock and can say without hesitation that butter cooks up SO much better in pretty much everything; especially in baked goods!

    So here’s a “huzzah” for the beauty that is butter! Oh and I’ll be using eggs too…wait are those “Incredibly Edibl-y” or “High Cholesterol Death Nuggets?” I forget which swing we’re in currently…..

  20. Oh good point, tg. You probably want to use melted butter, not oil. I don’t know if the applesauce would be necessary, though – pretty sure that’s usually used just to cut back on the total amount of fat, not for any particular flavor reason.

  21. We switched from margerine to butter not too long ago and I’ll never go back. Everything tastes better with butter and hey, I know what’s in it! I’m with giannakali when it comes to my food; if I can get it unprocessed, organic and whole, huzzah! Mmm butter.

    Also, Faith made me lol. Fatty McFatterson. *snicker*

  22. I think Julia Child would have kneecapped anyone who asked her not to use butter. It’s one of the many reasons I’ve always loved her so.

  23. Twistie: I agree about Julia Child. She was amazing. Anyone who can drop a turkey on the floor and then pick it up and assert “No one will ever know” while on TV just rocks my world! Funny side note; where I work they actually have one of the ginormous whisks she used to use stored for…I don’t know, safe keeping? Very cool!

  24. I think melted butter could definitely be used in place of oil. Or you could go half-and-half, if you just didn’t want to use so much vegetable oil.

    My favorite thing to saute chicken in is one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil. The two fats combine SO well.

    You can also use butter in place of Crisco. This should be obvious, but for some reason it was not obvious to me for a long time. I can’t stand working with Crisco–it just icks me out on many levels–but I didn’t realize there were options. There are, though, and butter generally works just fine in its place.

  25. See, I grew up having both in the house and I just always preferred margarine for no real reason. I don’t have anything against butter, and I do agree that it’s irreplacable when it comes to cooking, but if I have to choose between butter or margarine on my toast, I’ll pick margarine every time.

    I’m also Vegan, so I can’t have butter anymore anyway. Smart Balance is DELCIOUS. By far the best butter “substitute” out there. Not so good for baking, though, obviously.

  26. Lori, if you aren’t veggie, lard is what Crisco is substituting for in the first place, which is even more rich than butter! So butter works, but lard is even more delicious. :)

  27. As a vegany baker, i want to note that you can’t always make a 1-1 switch for butter and other animal products to non-animal products. Baking is about chemistry, and since those ingredients have different chemical makeups, they can require different proportions and baking procedures. So, that may explain why some people who switched out butter for margarine got less than stellar results. I recommend The Garden of Vegan for some killer recipes. Also, sometimes margarine is just gross.

  28. Twistie: Yes.
    Also, it amuses me on a deep level that it is illegal to serve margarine in restaurants to customers that don’t ask for it. Butter is the default spread. (The fine is not small if you get caught involuntarily margarinizing people.)

  29. And since y’all change your mind about which foods are going to kill us on, like, a weekly basis, we might as well live it up.

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t let this tand. Them changing their minds about what will kill you is NO LISENSCE to just eat whatever you want. Since all food may possibly kill you, the correct response is to just eat nothing, at all, ever. And then the food *can’t* kill you!

  30. To everyone in the DC area with Julia Child love – the American History Museum has a replica of Julia Child’s kitchen along with tons of information about her life. They also play clips from her tv shows on screens in the exhibit area.

    April D, my favorite apron is one with the Incredible Edible Egg logo on it.

  31. vgnvxn, that’s true, and of more than just baking. I remember it took my vegan friend most of a tub of margarine to approximate the flavor of a couple tablespoons of butter in a baked fruit nut crisp tray! And it still wasn’t quite rich enough!

  32. vgnvxn, my dad made that mistake with an butter to apple sauce replacement once. The brownies came out tasting like a foul mix of brownies and gingerbread. (Both of which I love, but the flavor combo was gross.)

  33. You know how sometimes, when you’re sauteing onions in oil, it will irritate your eyes almost as much as when you’re chopping them? Well, it doesn’t happen if you saute them in butter, or half and half butter and olive oil!

    Butter, clearly, keeps you from going blind!

  34. I have a book called “A Propensity to Protect: Butter, Margarine and the Rise of Urban Culture in Canada” that I should get around to reading-it’s about the Canadian butter cartel, and their heroic battle againsts margarine.

    It’s still illegal to sell yellow margarine in Quebec. Margarine is required to look like margarine, and not try to disguise itself as butter!

  35. According to that book, “Margarine originated in France and was developed in response to the need to offset the large deficiency in the supply of fats for the diet of the poor, in particular urban, working-class people”

  36. Tricia, Wisconsin. It may have more to do with supporting our dairy industry than taste, but do I care? No. (No offense, margarine lovers. I’m just grateful that the dairy industry currently outstrips the diet industry here.)

    http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=default.htm&d=stats&jd=97.18#JUMPDEST_97.18

    Pertinent bits:
    97.18(4)
    (4) The serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer.

    97.18(5)
    (5) The serving of oleomargarine or margarine to students, patients or inmates of any state institutions as a substitute for table butter is prohibited, except that such substitution may be ordered by the institution superintendent when necessary for the health of a specific patient or inmate, if directed by the physician in charge of the patient or inmate.

    97.18(6)
    (6) Any person who violates any provision of this section may be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500 or imprisoned not more than 3 months or both; and for each subsequent offense may be fined not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or imprisoned in the county jail not less than 6 months nor more than one year.

  37. I have come to the conclusion that it’s better to eat something that is actualy food, and was always meant to be food, rather than the lo-fat, no-fat, no-calorie, synthetic, god-knows-what-your-kids-will-look-like substitutions.

    Clearly, I deserve to be a fattie.

  38. It warns that people eating these dishes regularly could be putting their lives at serious risk by bumping up their saturated fat intake.

    Right, so all these people who are cooking a meal from a celebrity chef cookbook three times a day every night of the week are flirting with disasta!. So glad to know this.

    Kate, this made me snort: Yes, clearly butter is the culprit responsible for jacking up the saturated fat content of EGG AND BACON PIE. Remember to flavor your bacon pie with a “heart-healthy spread,” folks!

    Cook’s Illustrated has a wonderful pie crust recipe that uses vodka, of all things. Because it moistens the crust, making it easier to work with, but doesn’t cause the gluten formation that water does. It’s darn near foolproof and bakes up wonderfully (during which time the alcohol cooks off). So – and not that I plan to do this, you know, this weekend or anything – you *could* make an egg and bacon and vodka pie, if you really wanted to make the Fat Panel cry.

    @MissPrism: I love love love your cookbook parody!

  39. Them changing their minds about what will kill you is NO LISENSCE to just eat whatever you want. Since all food may possibly kill you, the correct response is to just eat nothing, at all, ever. And then the food *can’t* kill you!

    See, this is why I’m glad I know a statistician. I just can’t interpret these studies correctly.

  40. I have a recipe book which offers a range of “healthy” versions of favourite recipes. One of these is something they call “Tuna Casserole” which is effectively supposed to be a healthier version of Tuna Mornay.

    I tried making this. Once. Here’s the opinion I scribbled down afterwards:

    Okay, the first substitution I made with this was that I put in salmon instead of tuna (tuna tends to be too dry and cardboardy for my taste). However, this recipe is one of a group of “healthy” versions of older favourites which seems to have forgotten the point of the original – in this case, Tuna Mornay. They’ve taken out all the possible fat, all possible salt, and the final result is a rather thin and tasteless substitute for the real thing. In this case, the cheese sauce has been substituted with milk and cornflour combined, with the cheese being reduced to 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan on the crumb topping. Look, the point of tuna mornay is that it’s creamy, cheesy, and tastes good that way – it’s not a dish you’re supposed to have on a daily basis, so it’s okay if it’s a bit high in fat. I think I’ll stick to the original version, rather than this pale copy.

    Needless to say, the cookbook containing this particular monstrosity tends to languish at the back of the pantry. Given it also contains a recipe for low-fat cheesecake (use a combination of silken tofu and low-fat ricotta instead of cream cheese, and substitute honey for sugar… ummm… yeah) I think it’s going right back in there as soon as I’ve finished typing this comment.

    My point being: some recipes are not able to be made into a “slimmers version” or a “healthy version”. And that’s okay, because they’re not everyday foods either. I don’t wear a hair shirt. I see no need to eat one.

  41. See, this is why I’m glad I know a statistician. I just can’t interpret these studies correctly.

    Plus, we’re hilarious at parties.

    Did you hear the one about the three statisticians who went hunting? They saw a deer, and the first one took her shot, she was off to the left. And then the second one lined up and shot off to the right. And then the third one yelled “We Hit It!”

  42. “My point being: some recipes are not able to be made into a “slimmers version” or a “healthy version”. And that’s okay, because they’re not everyday foods either. I don’t wear a hair shirt. I see no need to eat one.”

    Oh come on, you can *totally* substitute non-fat yogurt and Butter Buds in any cake recipe and NO ONE WILL KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

    Yeah, if your taste buds were burned off in an accident, maybe.

    Hey, I’m a survivor of those 70s and 80s no fat/no sugar cookbooks. Thank Maude my honkin’ rebellious streak made following those recipes completely impossible. Butter, eggs and sugar were my “fuck you!” to denial of women’s appetites for real food, even if I couldn’t have articulated that at the time.

  43. Shinobi, you are invited to *every* party I hold from now on. (There’s no food or alcohol, or music, as it may make you go deaf, but otherwise, they’re *awesome.*)

    Three professors (a physicist, a chemist, and a statistician) are ushered into a waiting room, where they are startled to discover that there is a fire in the wastebasket.

    The physicist says, “Don’t panic! We must cool down the materials until their temperature is lower than the ignition point and then the fire will go out.”

    The chemist says, “No! I know what to do! We must cut off the supply of oxygen so that the fire will go out due to lack of one of the reactants.”

    While the physicist and chemist debate what course to take, they both are alarmed to see the statistician running around the room starting other fires. They both scream, “What are you doing?”

    To which the statistician replies, “Trying to get an adequate sample size.”

  44. On substituing butter for vegetable oil: butter is only 80%-85% fat, it’s 15%-20% water. So if you’re going to substitute, you will need to take into account that you are using less fat and increasing the moisture content .

    As mentioned before butter is solid at room temperature, while vegetable oil is not. The melting point of butter is often a factor in baked goods – in fact, some recipes take into account that the outside of the baked goods will do some setting before the butter melts on the inside and use that for texture purposes.

    If you want to substitute butter for oil in recipes, I think you’d best be prepared to do some experimentation. I’d also like to recommend the book “Cookwise” by Shirley Corriher if you do – she explains food chemistry so well, it’s full of recipes, and even though I don’t do pie crusts I was absolutely enthralled by her chapter on them and how they work and how tender and flaky are two different ends of the spectrum.

    (I understand Bakewise is good, too, but I haven’t read it yet.)

    I’ve never looked back after switching to butter. I don’t need to use as much because it has so much more flavor and mouthfeel, so it’s a win for my budget, too. Life is too short to eat foods that don’t taste good.

  45. I had the yearly visit to my PCP today, and told her that I probably consume about a stick of butter a week, mostly in baked gods. And she was ok with that. AND, my cholesterol was good.

  46. One day right after I got married, my MIL was talking about my husband’s paternal grandmother and what an amazing cook she was, and that she had all her recipes and didn’t understand why they didn’t turn out the same.

    My husband turned around and said, “Because, Mom, if a recipe says Whole milk and butter, you use skim milk and margerine, where Grandma would use heavy whipping cream and more butter.”

  47. About the carrot cake – someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the trick to using butter in a recipe that legitimately calls for oil (i.e., because the chemistry works better), is that you have to clarify the butter to remove the dairy soilds.

    Oh, and no TV chef ever-ever-Ever can replace Julia Child.

  48. Being the baker I am, I can tell you, the only good use for Crisco is pan grease when you want your cake to slide out effortlessly without taking a knife to it. Otherwise, you’d be like Jason Vorhees, and the cake is the teenager that made the mistake of having premartial sex at Camp Crystal Lake. And when you make buttercream frosting, well there’s a reason it’s called BUTTERcream. There is no such thing as maragarinecream or butterflavorcriscoscream.

  49. Mmmmm, buttercream frosting.

    Geekgirlsrule, LOL! That sounds like my Grandmother’s cooking. Man, that was some good stuff that woman made. I still day dream about her gravy smothered pork chops.

  50. Two things:

    I work with a truly incredibly talented Arkie editorialist who proudly declares: “I’d eat an opossum if you cooked it with a stick of butter!”

    And, you know, it’s almost as if these celebrity chefs are giving us a LICENSE TO EAT WHATEVER WE WANT.

    Oh. Wait.

  51. I grew up using margarine for everything, because it’s cheaper than butter, and it’s what we could afford. I grew up drinking skim milk, because to save money, we bought powdered milk, which only came as skim. And to this day, anything other than skim milk tastes gross to me, and using butter rather than margarine seems ‘stuck up’ somehow (not saying that this is actually the case, rather that it’s my emotional response based on not having been able to afford it as a child).

    Anyways, I’ve had great success baking a lot of stuff with margarine and skim milk, maybe because the recipes mostly came from my Mom’s family, who were even worse off than we were when she was growing up. Part of baking for me is doing things the way we did when we were little, and switching to butter wouldn’t do that for me.

    Obviously, this ‘study’ is ridiculous, though.

  52. Cholesterol is mostly a genetic crapshoot. I weigh 465 pounds, and my total cholesterol count (as of last month) is 139. In the past, it’s been down to 118. My dad has never had his count over 150, so that’s where I get it from.

    My mom, who’s a nurse, is blown away every time I remind her of this fact, since she’s been indoctrinated into the idea that Teh Fat = high cholesterol/bad heart/unhealthyunhealthyunhealthy.

    Yes, I am on a diet right now, but that’s because I have serious mobility issues and difficulty catching my breath after walking a short distance. I’m hoping to eventually get down to 200 pounds, but that’s years in the future. My initial goal is just to be able to walk a mile without having to stop.

  53. Oh, and I meant to say that even my nurse mom, who raised us all on “healthy” margarine, is a butter convert and has been for more than ten years now! Like she said when I found out about her change in heart, “If I’m going to get the fat content, I’d rather it taste good and be natural!”

  54. My paternal grandmother made the bestest, bestest brownies evah. Hands down. I have her recipe and it calls for margarine. I NEVER have margarine in the house, so I made it with butter. Um, yeah, what I ended up making was solid, unedible brownie door stops. After experimenting quite a bit with this recipe (what can I say, I’m a chemist, this is what I do….), yup, it has to be margarine. Weird.

    And as far as I’m concerned that is the only reason margarine exists.

    mmmm…. brownies.

  55. Statisticians, woooo! <–meant to be a humorous, drunk-guys-on-spring-break kind of wooo.

    You have no idea how upset I am that I am the only one of said statisticians left in my office right now, so I have to wait until Monday to share shinobi and Anita’s jokes. Here’s one, though:

    A biologist, a physicist, and a statistician were on a car trip through Ohio. They drove past a black cow, and the biologist said, “Oh look, there are black cows in Ohio.” The physicist said, feeling very smart, “No, there is at least one black cow in Ohio.” The statistician then replied, “No, there is at least one cow that is black on one side in Ohio.”

  56. And she was an anti-Nazi spy! So awesome!

    Also, Julia Child invented shark-repellent. No, seriously — it’s in Wikipedia.

    Some days I wonder if that was a cooking experiment gone terribly wrong.

    But most days, I just think how awesome Julia Child is.

    Mmmm, butter.

  57. To my mind, the only advantage margarine has over butter is that you don’t have to wait for it to warm up to be easily spreadable. What can I say? Us fats, we’re lazy.

  58. Wooooo!!! ::Chest bumps killedbyllamas and then smashes a beer can on her head::

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde:

    I do not know whether there is anything peculiarly exciting in the air of this particular part of the Blogosphere, but the number of statisticians here seems to me considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.

  59. Probably the whole understanding research and its limitations thing. ;)

    *pops collar and pulls out a beer bong with Correlation Does Not Equal Causation written on the funnel*

  60. Coconut oil is also awesome for cooking. I don’t find it tastes very coconutty and I get the unrefined stuff. I used to use canola for most stuff, but the difference in the way things cook is incredible. Coconut oil has a high smoke point, so the outside of the food seals quickly so you can actually FRY instead of stewing in oil. And it doesn’t oxidise easily. You can leave it out on the bench in an open jar and it won’t go rancid for YEARS.

    If you’re a vegan looking for a butter or lard substitute for good frying, pastrymaking, etc- coconut oil is it.

    Unfortunately it’s more expensive than other oils but if you can afford it, it’s worth it.

    You can make great rumballs by mixing coconut oil, cocoa (raw gives a flavour with more kick), powdered sugar, coconut flour, and rum.

  61. I can do no better than quote Lord Peter Wimsey: “You don’t need an argument or buying butter. It’s a natural, human instinct.”

    And the “margarine is spreadable” argument doesn’t hold if you buy salted butter and keep it in a butter dish.

  62. re: butter and oil…what TropicalChrome said. You _could_ probably clarify it, but that might be a bit wasteful for the quantity you’d need. If you can reduce the water somewhere else in the recipe (squeeze out the carrots??), you’d be on your way.

    @Shinobi: for it to be R-squared, wouldn’t it HAVE to be rum and rum? Or two parts rum to four parts rum?

  63. Oh don’t worry atiton, it’s not enough of an advantage to make up for the taste. I should get a butter dish though: good idea.

  64. In defense of Crisco, it’s the only fat you can use in cake icing that won’t melt and ruin the wedding cake of whoever decided to have an outdoor wedding in Missouri. Just sayin’.

  65. Forgive me if this has been said as I don’t have time to read all the comments this morning, but they have side-stepped trans-fats by specifying polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread. This is the opposite of hydrogenated oil, which means trans-fats. I don’t know any options for this aside from Earth Balance or Smart Balance. Maybe Buttery Stick (good for baking).

    It still has saturated fats in there–palm oil or something–but probably less? And no trans-fats.

  66. “Nigella Lawson is criticised for using butter instead of margarine in her egg and bacon pie, with a single serving brimming with 36g of fat.”
    WHAT! Margarine IS evil. Butter all the way!!

    That’s the kind of thing that makes my chef boyfriend angry at the world. And me TOO.

  67. Also many of us would rather eat foods that we know are food, not chemicals. I know what butter is? What is margarine?

  68. I was raised on butter. Even when everyone we knew was eating margarine, because butter was eeeeeeevil, my mother used to say, “I don’t know what the hell is in that stuff, I can’t pronounce half of it. That has to be worse for you than milk fat.”

  69. This would be a study commissioned by the UK’s “Margarine and Spreads Panel,” right? I’m sure they’re completely unbiased. I wonder what the (equally unbiased) study commissioned by the National Dairy Council has to say about similar issues? Actually, I know the general shape of what they have to say. I’m just wondering how the two groups study the same populations, come to exactly opposite conclusions, and each backs up their conclusions with such good-looking statistics.

    I’m so completely lactose-intolerant these days that margarine has become important to me. Yes, butter tastes good, but it makes me so sick it’s really not worth it. It may be childish of me, but sometimes I feel resentful about foodie articles that condemn vegan and pareve baking to say things like “cookies without butter are not worth eating–if you want to use margarine, don’t bother.” I also resent that most kinds of margarine have been reformulated to contain whey.

  70. Really, the only reasons to buy margarine instead of butter are 1) it’s cheaper, and/or 2) you have some legitimate reason to avoid/restrict dairy. That includes keeping kosher, where you have to keep milk and meat products separate — for special holidays like Passover, though, regular margarine is not considered “kosher enough” and they make a special spread for those occasions (which ain’t cheap).

    We didn’t keep kosher ourselves, but we relied heavily on margarine growing up, partially because butter was so much more expensive and partially because they actually believed it was “better for you” then. I don’t even wanna KNOW what that did to my arteries.

    One thing I remember is that the old Rice Krispies Treats recipes called for margarine, and I seem to recall that making it with butter wasn’t going to work because the butter would get all burned before the marshmallows melted. I haven’t made them in years, though, so if you have made them with butter successfully, feel free to enlighten me.

  71. I’m so completely lactose-intolerant these days that margarine has become important to me. Yes, butter tastes good, but it makes me so sick it’s really not worth it.

    That’s interesting. I’m pretty sure butter has no lactose in it. You might have a dairy allergy, actually, or maybe you’re intolerant of something else in dairy like casein?

  72. Also, I want to reiterate that I looooooove butter. Just because I can. Yum!! (Did we already talk about how easy it is to make your own? SM found this out, and I have confirmed it. More than once now. I will never buy butter again!)

  73. I’m Spanish, and old enough to remember the days when olive oil was bad for you. It was just as bad for the circulatory system as any fat of animal origin.

    Since the culprits admitted that it was all a conspiracy to raise sales of oils made from seeds (sunflower, for example), I refuse to take seriously any announcement about what food is healthy or not.

  74. My cookie recipe is better with half butter, half oil, but I still think I’m doing something wrong. The cookies aren’t as soft as I’d like. I’ll try them with all-butter again, because it just seems like that would work best, but in the past the cookies came out thin.

    I grew up with margarine and Crisco only. No butter. I think because margarine is cheaper, or maybe my parents just liked its taste better. It wasn’t because of the fats.

    Like Raven, I much prefer margarine on my toast, to “butter” my rolls, and in grilled cheese sandwiches. But I use butter or oil in baked goods. I don’t taste much flavor in butter though. I wonder why that is.

  75. Meowser, I’ve made rice crispie treats with butter ;-) I guess you just have to keep the heat lower than you would with margarine?

    I grew up on margarine, I think mom bought it because it was “healthier”. It turns out soy gives me digestive problems and almost all margarine has soy oil in it. The only one I’ve found that doesn’t is really expensive (at least more expensive than the store brand butter I buy on sale). So I use butter now when I need it.

  76. So, I haven’t actually read the rest of the comments, because it’s 2:30 in the morning and I need to go to bed. But that article about whether you should use butter or margarine in your Christmas cookies made me feel the need to shout this:

    I just DON’T CARE!!

    For heaven’s sake, if something actually killed us when we ate it occasionally, we’d know it already. It would be patently obvious, along the lines of “People who fall down stairs are more likely to have broken bones!” But since studies of arsenic and cyanide aren’t very much fun in this day and age, instead we get these head-scratching examinations of minute differences in nutritional danger (danger!!) that would really only make a difference in my health if I were planning to eat the food in question every day for the rest of my life. Which is why it’s especially ironic when the danger in question is applied to Christmas cookies. Do we really think we’ll live appreciably longer because, every December, we pick up the right package from the supermarket dairy case instead of the wrong one?

    Okay, seems that type of article really gets under my skin. I’ll make a deal with you, internet: I promise to eat more than one type of food every day for the rest of my life, and you don’t make me read articles like that anymore.

  77. but they have side-stepped trans-fats by specifying polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread. This is the opposite of hydrogenated oil, which means trans-fats. I don’t know any options for this aside from Earth Balance or Smart Balance.

    You can get soft margarine that’s free of trans fats (I use Becel), but I think hydrogenation is essential to make hard margarine. And you can’t use soft margarine in baking, so I’m not sure what they’re suggesting here.

    Personally I bake with butter but I do use margarine for everything else (well, either that or oil). I grew up with it, so I’m used to it and like it better than butter. (My parents grew up with butter, switched to margarine because it was supposed to be healthier, and now have switched back to butter because margarine turned out not to be so great and they prefer butter. But they were in the margarine period while I was growing up).

  78. That’s interesting. I’m pretty sure butter has no lactose in it. You might have a dairy allergy, actually, or maybe you’re intolerant of something else in dairy like casein?

    I’m also quite lactose intolerant and for me butter is usually fine; sometimes I suspect some milk solids have slipped in, so if I’m having something really buttery and I’m feeling nervous, I have a dairy digestive.

    But, I piped up with this PSA — because I know of two different people who self-diagnosed as lactose intolerant because of cream, ice cream, and butter intolerance (which is usually okay for the lactose intolerant) — when what they really had was GALL issues that were particularly triggered by milk fats.

    Some of the symptoms can be similar. However, cream should be better than skim milk if your problem is with lactose, and the opposite should be true if your problem is with milk fat.

    Gall can be more dangerous than lactose intolerance, so check it out!

  79. You know, this is part of what made me suspicious of the whole diet industry in the first place, the idea that one should avoid ingredients people have used for hundreds of years because they’re toxic! and scary! and replace them with processed, artificial ingredients whose health effects the jury is still out on. This is a good idea why?

    Blech, I hate margarine. And you’ll get me to stop making jambalaya with butter when you can find something that tastes better. Good luck with that.

    Also since when does every single recipe need to be low fat? How often are most people going to eat bacon and egg pie anyway? This reminds me off all those “omg Thanksgiving dinner will make you fat and then you’ll die” articles. Thanksgiving is once a year, people, calm the hell down.

  80. Wow, I can hardly believe that such a thing as ‘egg and bacon pie’ even exists, lol. I guess I lead a sheltered life.

    I do feel rather differently about this. As a vegan, I have been to so many friends’ dinners, potlucks, catered events, etc. where I can eat little if any of the food. In most cases, all it takes to make these foods accessible (and I mean that in the disability rights sense, as well) to vegans/vegetarians/lactose-intolerant folks is to substitute things like soy milk, powdered vegan egg replacer, or kosher margarine for the animal ingredients. I mean, if you’re only cooking/baking for yourself, then, whatever, it’s only between you and your conscience whether you use animal or veg products; but if you are planning to share with others at a party or at work, using veg ‘substitutes’ means more people can literally join you at the table.
    It feels rather hurtful when I’m eating with friends who are discussing how ‘pie crust just doesn’t taste right without some butter’ or some such thing, when they are aware that that choice bars me or others from partaking.

  81. I nearly had a heart attack when the fitness instructor at my gym told me that I was probably doing myself a favor by refusing to use anything other than butter. Her exact words somewhere along the line was ‘I don’t trust anything made in a mini oil-processing plant on my toast’

    I have to agree. Natural blows synthetic out of the water 99% of the time for me, both for taste and for additives. I don’t like the look of what’s in most synthetics. Can’t be good for you.

  82. I imagine egg & bacon pie is pretty much just Quiche Lorraine, really.

    Vidya, I have to say, you might need a better class of friends if they’re consistently pulling that shit on you when they know you’ll be dining. However, as many have discussed upthread, “simply substituting non-animal products” often Just Does Not Work and makes the result decidedly inferior. In most cases, they’d have to cook from a recipe that specified the non-critter products. So there’s that.

    And, if it’s a case of you simply choosing not to eat the foods most people eat, rather than because of allergies, well, quite frankly, a lot of people think you’re being uppity or elitist in some fashion for being vegetarian/vegan. The behavior you describe could very well be passive-aggressive on their parts, or it could simply be ignorance, but I don’t know your circle of friends.

    Shit, some people think that even when people have *actual* allergies. My aunt’s idiot friend purposefully gave her food containing an ingredient to which she KNEW Auntie was allergic, then would scrutinize Auntie’s reaction “to see if she really got sick” and of course she always did. Multiple times! Auntie finally quit eating anything she prepared. Seriously fucked up, but people do pull that shit.

  83. My friend made an awesome vegan chocolate cake once. She used vegan spread and egg-replacer, so to make up for that, she also used loads of Green and Black’s Maya Gold chocolate.

    To be fair, they now list “organic milk powder” on the Maya Gold ingredients, because apparently they can’t guarantee that it’s entirely milk-free… So not all vegans will want to eat Maya Gold. Still, I thoroughly recommend it for any chocolate cakes you may make.

    I’ve occasionally tried baking without measuring ingredients, and it can be fun, because it forces you to think about how the amounts you put in affect the final result, rather than just blindly following a recipe. That kind of understanding is really useful if you are going to make substitutions.

  84. I once saw a pie with a bacon lattice top, but I forget what was inside. I think cheese was involved.

    Speaking of butter, have y’all seen crockery butter keepers? I first encountered them at a b&b. Clever little things. It keeps butter on the counter and soft enough to use, but cool and free from contamination (wouldn’t work in 100 degree weather I bet, but in normal to cool room settings). It has one bowl that you smoosh all the butter into, then it turns upside down over a larger bowl that has cold water in it.

  85. Vidya, I understand your complaint. One of my friends is vegetarian, and I always make sure she is not restricted to a salad when she comes to my house. Some people are either willfully insensitive or they just don’t think.

  86. I’m also quite lactose intolerant and for me butter is usually fine; sometimes I suspect some milk solids have slipped in, so if I’m having something really buttery and I’m feeling nervous, I have a dairy digestive.

    Oh, good point. Poorly-rinsed butter could still have buttermilk on it, which is where the lactose goes (not the solids – that’s the butter!). If you’re that sensitive it might be an issue. Interesting about the gall issues, though – I hadn’t ever heard of that. A new way people might not be able to tolerate a food! I collect those!

    Vidya, I do understand the complaint, because when people know you’re coming and have been warned about a food restriction, it’s polite to take that into consideration. And if they’re your friends, it’s pretty IMpolite not to! But as for just not using so much dairy or egg because someone present *might* be vegan, it is NOT really possible to account for every possible restrictive diet if you aren’t given fair warning. What if you were coming over, and they planned for it, but the friend who is allergic to soy unexpectedly showed up, too, and wished people were more accomodating? Not that you can’t do a dinner with a vegan person, a soy-allergic person, and a gluten-corn-lactose-maltose-intolerant person (that last one would be me) all present at the same time, because I’ve been to a dinner like that and it was delicious. But that takes some serious advance planning!

    I think enough people are vegetarian that a veggie option is usually a good idea for a big enough group. Enough people have problems with dairy that maybe dairy-free should be offered more than it is, but that hasn’t really entered the general consciousness enough yet. But few enough people are vegan (or gluten-intolerant, or soy-intolerant, or corn-intolerant) that I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a work party or house party to automatically prepare something vegan (and GF and soy-free and corn-free – either this is going to have to be lots of dishes or just one dish consisting of plain apples) just in case someone shows up who needs it. They can only make so many dishes. Which is why for potlucks, I bring a lot of food and then eat more than my fair share. :)

  87. ot that you can’t do a dinner with a vegan person, a soy-allergic person, and a gluten-corn-lactose-maltose-intolerant person (that last one would be me) all present at the same time, because I’ve been to a dinner like that and it was delicious. But that takes some serious advance planning!

    Yeah, my rule has always been to make sure everyone that’s coming can have a complete meal (or set of snacks, if it’s a snacky thing) and won’t leave hungry but not necessarily that they’ll be able to eat everything there, partly to save my sanity and partly because some (okay, most, IMO) things really don’t taste right when you leave out certain ingredients and I’d rather make it right and let people who can enjoy it enjoy it, then make a version that everyone can eat but nobody is really going to enjoy. I could not make it at all when someone who isn’t able to eat it is there, but then you get into the problem of juggling a variety of different food restrictions. I don’t know; it seems like a reasonable balance to me.

  88. Right, and that the host would do that with advance warning is totally a reasonable expectation for friends and guests to have. But I disagree with Vidya that everyone should be accomodating of just the possibility that a person with unusual dietary restrictions might show up.

  89. For dairy free people who are not vegan (and who don’t like the idea of using margarine in baking) I have a servicable chocolate cake recipe I devised through experimentation that uses olive oil instead of butter and it has a nice texture and moistness (in my opinion – it’s ‘healthy’ – i.e. no sugar, wholemeal flour etc – which fact always causes people to look intensely sceptical when I mention this recipe, and I’m not exactly a baking guru, so YMMV). For those who are interested the basic recipe goes thus:
    2 eggs
    Half a cup of olive oil (I tried making it with sunflower oil and it comes out kind of dry and peculiar.)
    Half a cup of maple syrup/honey/agave nectar (latter works best, although it is more expensive, I think.)
    Half a cup of ground almonds.
    One and one quarter cups of self-raising wholemeal flour.
    One and one eighth ounces of cocoa powder
    Juice and zest of one orange
    Vanilla essence (to taste)

    I usually just whisk it all together haphazardly and bung it in a loaf tin then bake it for forty minutes in oven
    at gas mark 4 (which I think is 160 degrees in a fan assisted oven).

    As I said, I know there are other Shapelings who are gifted bakers, but for dairy-free baking novices like me I think this could be a good basic recipe that’s hard to mess up too much! Plus it’s very, very chocolatey, which can never be a bad thing :)

  90. MsChilePepper, I’ve made the egg-and-bacon pie in question, and it’s really more like a bacon-and-onion pie with a little bit of egg poured over as a binder. It’s delicious, but where Nigella claims it serves 6, I found it very hard to finish even a 1/8 slice, and it could easily be spread to 12 if you were serving basically anything else with breakfast. (but obviously it’s the butter’s fault that it’s got so much fat per serving.)

  91. But, I piped up with this PSA — because I know of two different people who self-diagnosed as lactose intolerant because of cream, ice cream, and butter intolerance (which is usually okay for the lactose intolerant) — when what they really had was GALL issues that were particularly triggered by milk fats.

    Oh, gosh, you’ve just described my sister. About six months ago she was telling me all about how she can’t have ice cream anymore because she’s lactose intolerant. I’m going to tell her about this and send her to her doctor, because if she just thinks she can’t have ice cream, then she needs to know she can, and if she can’t, she needs to know what’s actually going on.

  92. Okay, the last paragraph of this post is something I may need to print out in fancy font, frame, and put in my kitchen for all time.

    Kate Harding, I love you like a fine cheese, which by the way is expensive and prized because it is aged and full of delicious fat. I accept no substitutions! Not in my food, and not in my blogs! I DEMAND THE GENUINE ARTICLE!

    Ahem. Yes.

    I also love the rest of you with a love that grows and swells like… shit I can’t find another fatty food analogy, gaaaah! I’m really out of it today.

    SP is awesome. Good food is good. The end.

  93. rowmyboat: I know it was a typo, but “baked gods” is a classic. Did some worshipping of the patissierie today.

    By the way, haven’t eggs come back to the “good for you…for the moment” list?

    Curries made with ghee – clarified butter – instead of oil are awesome.

  94. I have to agree. Natural blows synthetic out of the water 99% of the time for me, both for taste and for additives. I don’t like the look of what’s in most synthetics. Can’t be good for you.

    This and similar comments keep popping up here at Shapely Prose, and it’s bothering me. Where is the evidence that these “synthetic” foods are bad for us?

    Just as we Shapelings were able to question the brainwashing that tells us that having lots of fat tissue is unhealthy, why are so many people willing to accept that food that doesn’t pop out of the ground or come only from animals must be the source of health problems?

    I eat lots of stuff that’s called “junk,” and I’m healthy, mostly. I don’t see a compelling reason to attribute my few health issues to a certain type of food.

    I’m tired of people assuming that because I eat margarine, or Skittles, or Doritos, then I am hurting myself*. Please, provide me with the rigorous scientific documentation of these evil substances. I am open to being convinced that you are correct, on a case-by-case basis.

    *I’m specifically thinking of chronic harm here – like cancer or a cardiovascular disease. I realize that eating a shit ton of sugar in a short span of time makes many people feel sick, but that’s usually a temporary state.

    If proponents of synthetic food/junk = unhealthy are trying to argue that eating that stuff doesn’t provide one with all the nutrients a body needs, please, save it. You don’t know what my body needs or wants. I’m fully capable of consuming the nutrients I require and enjoying so-called junk food too.

  95. Vidya, that’s precisely why I always ask anyone I’m about to feed for the first time ‘what don’t you eat’ before I start planning my menu. I don’t care whether their reasoning is religious, moral, health-issue-related, or simple preference. I just want to make sure I make something my guest can eat and enjoy.

    Anyone who sits down in front of their known vegan friend and basically tells them they can’t have good food because they don’t eat animal products deserves a smack from a clue by four. As much as I love my animal products, I’ve had some damn tasty vegetarian and vegan meals over the years, and cooked them for friends, as well, just as I’ve accomodated people who couldn’t eat dairy, who are allergic to nuts, or who detest all my favorite vegetables.

    You might not get cake or pie at my house (though I have seen a couple of cake recipes that used olive oil before and Katherine’s looks intriguing to me), but you would absolutely get dessert sans a lecture on its inferiority.

  96. Going a bit off track, but I’ll throw in that my all-purpose “taking to someone’s house or other potluck” food is quinoa with olive-oil brushed and roasted vegetables (or stir-fried with same). Fits vegan and gluten-free, so it’s the least likely to cause any problems (plus it looks interesting, so people go “oooo”). Adding a stick of butter makes it yummy, but i only do that if I know it’s ok with everyone.

  97. Ya’ll make me wish I could afford butter now. We don’t really use margarine for baking, but my husband gets it to do some of the cooking. Sometimes things turn out vile in my estimation because he used margarine where he should have used olive oil (which we also have a hard time affording). There’s something almost plastic-y tasting in margarine, especially if you’ve been cooking onions with it. Gross.

  98. Stupendousness, on March 14th, 2009 at 5:09 pm Said:

    I have to agree. Natural blows synthetic out of the water 99% of the time for me, both for taste and for additives. I don’t like the look of what’s in most synthetics. Can’t be good for you.

    This and similar comments keep popping up here at Shapely Prose, and it’s bothering me. Where is the evidence that these “synthetic” foods are bad for us?

    Well, I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m a food snob. I am very anti-fake-food. But it’s not a moral stance, nor am I going to tell you that what you eat is OMG totally killing you!

    I just don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t know if preservatives and artificial flavors and colors interfere with my Synthroid or something, but if I eat them, I feel sluggish, and just generally all shitty. I can imagine that this isn’t that uncommon, and if something makes you feel sick, it’s easy to believe that it’s unadulterated evil, and probably causes cancer, though I try not to believe stuff like that without proof. If you don’t react badly to it, then, cool. I’d love to be able to eat Doritos and Skittles with you, but they make me feel icky, and turn my pee funny colors. (I don’t seem to be able to digest food dye, either, which makes my passion for red velvet cake very interesting.)

    Enjoy your junk food. In fact, eat an extra serving for me. I miss Cool Ranch Doritos an awful lot.

  99. I also love the rest of you with a love that grows and swells like… shit I can’t find another fatty food analogy, gaaaah! I’m really out of it today.

    A delicious, buttery, eggy popover swelling out of its pan in a hot oven of love?

  100. Nineveh: “I can do no better than quote Lord Peter Wimsey: “You don’t need an argument or buying butter. It’s a natural, human instinct.”

    And the “margarine is spreadable” argument doesn’t hold if you buy salted butter and keep it in a butter dish.”

    Or if you buy the deliciousness that is whipped butter. NOM. Oh my do I love that stuffs on my morning toast.

    P.S. I <3 Jaime Oliver. Nuff said.

  101. I am very anti-fake-food.

    Except it’s not fake. It’s real food. It’s just been through a lot more processing than, say, an apple, and slightly more processing than flours from grains.

    I agree with you, Stupendousness. The good food/bad food or natural/unnatural or real/fake or synthetic dichotomies are false ones. There are different kinds of foods, and that’s it. Assigning moral values to different groups of foods is classist at best.

    I’m pretty sure that while creams have less lactose than low-fat milks, they still have plenty of lactose. It’s just less. So ice cream will still usually bother a lactose-interolant person. Lactose-free dairy products like butter and curd cheeses have undergone a much more complete separation from the part of the milk that contains the lactose (buttermilk or whey) than just cream from unhomogenized milk. (Yogurt is the other one that CAN be lactose-free, IF it is fermented well over 12 hours. Don’t trust any commercial yogurts to be lactose-free, though.)

  102. I didn’t know the difference between oleo and butter until I was 16 and my aunt made fun of her son in law for buying butter when he was sent to the store for butter. Now I have banned margarine and vegetable oil from my house.

  103. FTR… The olive oil in the Mediterranean diet that is supposed to make it so healthy? In the actual Mediterranean they use lard, instead. The olive oil is too valuable for export.

  104. If I’m making food for an ‘unknown’ group, I also try to include something which is gluten-free and soy-free (in addition to it all being vegan, of course), just in case. Beyond the actual food, it means a great deal to others to know that their health needs and ethical positions are envisioned and accomodated by those preparing the food.

    “And, if it’s a case of you simply choosing not to eat the foods most people eat, rather than because of allergies, well, quite frankly, a lot of people think you’re being uppity or elitist in some fashion for being vegetarian/vegan.”

    I’d hate to think I’d have to choose between my politics of anti-oppression and a ‘non-elitist’ stance. These go together, in my mind.

  105. I like Earth Balance margarine, as I’m in the house with someone who loves margarine and also wants to keep kosher. So, if we run out of margarine, and he uses butter instead (because, growing up, he never had sticks of butter in the house for anything other than making amazing homemade Indian sweets) I have to say, uh, hon — you’ve got milk mixin’ with yer meat, there.
    So I’m not anti-margarine. I actually don’t like the taste of butter in most things. I’m not anti-butter, either. I’m really pro-food, overall.
    Use whatever fat floats your boat, is all I’m saying. And, generally speaking, most fats would float boats. Or would they? I am so not scienterrific.

    I’m loving all of the statistician jokes. And cookbook parodying.

  106. That’s very, very considerate of you, Vidya, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect people to do that. It’s way above and beyond social custom, so if someone does not make efforts to accomodate the possibility of those rare situations in advance it doesn’t make them a rude or inconsiderate person.

  107. volcanista – I am lactose intolerant and most yogurt gives me a terrible stomach ache.

    I tend to go through massive mental contortions when faced with a pot-luck situation — who will be there and what do/don’t they eat? Are there any vegans attending? Vegetarians? People who don’t eat or are allergic to things? Add to that my desire to share foods from my or Mr. Rounded’s cultural backgrounds. I invariably spend too much time and money in these situations. Add in wanting to bring something that is not going to be off-limits for someone looking for “healthy” foods at one of these things, I really drive myself nuts.

    The next time I’m in a potluck situation, I think I’ll bring a “mediterranian-style’ salad platter — with hummus, baba ganoush, fancy olives, pickled veggies, some fresh vegetables for garnish, maybe some feta or other cheese, fresh herbs. It will set me back quite a few bucks, but it will have something for everything except for hard-core meat eaters (I could put in some cubed salami, I suppose, and then it might really please everyone). Oh, and some fresh bread. Now, I suppose, some imported butter — from France or Ireland or Wisconsin — would go with that.

  108. Yeah, wellroundedtype2, you need to make it yourself for it to be lactose-free. There isn’t a brand of commercial yogurt that is fermented that long and/or to which they don’t add additional milk solids. If you’re interested, I’m a yogurt-making expert – you can email me at volcanista at geeeeeeemail. :)

    I think for a potluck, you’re actually a little safer, because the people with unusual food needs can bring something for themselves! So if you bring something that one or two other people with dietary restrictions can eat, that’s probably fair – now that person gets to eat two things!

  109. for dairy free folk like myself, coconut oil is a good butter substitute (and some say it’s super good for you and has magical powers, which might be cool; but it’s full of omg teh saturated fats booga booga). grapeseed oil tastes the most buttery if you need a liquid fat, light(ly coloured) olive oil works too

  110. I think it works better to make things that usually contain ingredients that are appropriate to the dish. For instance I have extended family members who don’t eat milk, so instead of trying to find milk substitutes for dishes that normally contain milk; I try to find delicious dishes that just don’t use milk. One of my favorites is the coconut milk pudding, which has sugar, vanilla, coconut milk, and cornstarch; because it also works for my gluten intolerant nephew. Or a bean dip with mexican spicing, which is also both gluten and lactose free. My SIL always tells me it isn’t necessary; but dang, I want my nephews to feel included and thought about.

    I hadn’t thought about the butter/oil thing from a price standpoint before. I think I’ll put some olive oil in the donations to my local foodbank next time it’s on sale.

  111. Just wanted to add, I’m looking through one of Jaime Oliver’s earlier books and it’s actually quite chock full of quite a few healthy recipes. He uses a lot of veggies and even has a full chapter on salads. Plus, he’s all about the organic foods, which is why I’m sure he must’ve had a good hearty chuckle at the “Fat Panel’s” admonishment for not using margarine instead.

    Also, I’d like to add that my family used margarine pretty much all the time when I was growing up and my mother’s still fat and my sister and I were still always stout little girls. When I studied abroad I was surprised to find that my host family drank whole milk, and used real butter and cream and were all quite thin.

    Oh, also, I drank the milk and ate the butter and I actually LOST weight while I was over there. Figure that one out, fat panel.

  112. I grew up with margarine. Honestly, the only time I ever got to have real butter was either at a restaurant or in my grandmother’s butter cookies. My mother is very anti-fat (As in the food; not the person), so even our milk is low fat.

    I like a fair amount of fat in my food. I have a passion for whole milk. Every time I go out to breakfast, I usually have at least one glass of whole milk.

    Although, I will give props to my mother for using olive oil whenever she cooks meat. It makes it a lot less tough, and it makes the flavors stand out.

  113. I grew up eating margarine (my mom was in the butter was evil camp), I didn’t care for butter on the few occasions I had it. Several years ago I switched to butter and now refuse to have margarine in my house. The only time it crosses my threshold is when I have friends visiting who can’t have milk products.

    I use a whole slew of fats for cooking, depends on the dish. Personally I just read these “fat” panel reports and laugh at them. If they are so uptight about eating, that is their problem and they can keep their noses out of my kitchen.

  114. i second the person who said you can make rice krispy treats with butter. Just keep the heat low. They don’t taste the same as I remember as a kid….they taste better!

    I also second the person who suggested mixing olive oil and butter. Lidia Bastianich does that in a number of recipes and it makes for a really nice flavor

  115. @ Vidya, who said: “I’d hate to think I’d have to choose between my politics of anti-oppression and a ‘non-elitist’ stance. These go together, in my mind.”

    To paraphrase my black girlfriends, you don’t have to do anything but stay (insert whatever color your skin is) and die. I’m saying it might not have anything to do with your actual principles or politics; it’s about others’ perception of *why* you make your food choices. If indeed their preparation of social-occasion food that you can’t eat is a deliberate slap at your perceived (or actual) food snobbishness, that is. That’s a big assumption to make, and as I said, I don’t know your friends or you, for that matter. But it wouldn’t be the first time “crab in the bucket syndrome” reared its ugly head in a social circle.

    You just cannot expect that people will kowtow to your principles and politics, because they won’t, not regarding food or anything else. As we all know, food and eating-as-socialization are huge, huge things in all cultures, all wrapped up in nuances and undercurrents and wacky stuff that people may never, ever talk about or even dredge up out of their subconscious. Telling someone their party food falls short of your standards is a minefield, man, because I’m pretty sure most of us are careful to bring food to a potluck that we believe is yummy and represents our best efforts in the kitchen.

    As I see it, you can either make it a point to get involved in the planning of the social occasions and the preparation of the food being served so it meets your standards, or you can suck it up. You can’t lecture or whine or make demands with the aim of making others play by your personal rules. Unless you want to be disinvited to future events, of course.

  116. whoa, MsChilePepper, that was super harsh! I do agree that one person’s dietary needs aren’t necessarily everyone else’s problem, especially if it’s a potluck. But if hosts for a get-together know a vegan guest (or better yet, friend!) is coming, it’s common courtesy to prepare at least one dish for them. Not all the dishes, but enough that they don’t go hungry. We’re not talking about a giant party or a wedding reception or something – just little house parties. I think generally the onus is on the guest with unusual needs to communicate those needs in advance, because I DON’T think hosts need to prepare a dish for every single possible dietary restriction out there just in case (which was my whole point) – but if it’s a long-time friend and you know they’re coming, advance warning shouldn’t be necessary anymore.

  117. I only use butter. I read something once years ago and it stuck with me:

    I trust cows more than I trust chemists.

    Butter rocks.

  118. What volcanista said. If I know someone coming to my home for dinner is vegetarian or vegan, I’m going to prepare for that, just as I would if someone with a known food allergy was coming, AND IT’S JUST BASIC COURTESY TO DO SO. Further, I’m not going to sit there ragging on her/his food choices. That’s between them and their deity or lack thereof.

    I don’t feed nuts to people who have nut allergies. I don’t attempt to fool Muslims into eating pork. And yes, if someone who doesn’t eat meat is coming to my house and I’m aware of it, I’m going to make something that person can eat.

    Hospitality doesn’t require that we prepare for all potential possibilities, just in case, but it does require that we do our best to be thoughtful of the known needs of people we are feeding.

  119. Volcanista and Twistie, **yes** absolutely.

    Volcanista wrote: I think generally the onus is on the guest with unusual needs to communicate those needs in advance, because I DON’T think hosts need to prepare a dish for every single possible dietary restriction out there just in case (which was my whole point) – but if it’s a long-time friend and you know they’re coming, advance warning shouldn’t be necessary anymore.

    And Twistie followed up with: Hospitality doesn’t require that we prepare for all potential possibilities, just in case, but it does require that we do our best to be thoughtful of the known needs of people we are feeding.

    I think that pretty much sums it up. It’s considerate and thoughtful to try to take all possible needs into account when you’re making food for a random group of people with unknown needs, but it’s not obligatory. Depending on how you cook and who you’re feeding, it can also be crazy-making.

    If it’s a “work thing,” and you have coworkers with dietary restrictions, whatever they may be, I think it’s the responsibility of the person coordinating the potluck to either ask a couple people to bring acceptable foods for whatever the known restriction is or to toss out a generic reminder that fits the situation (e.g., “Please be mindful that several employees have allergies to wheat and nuts. We’d like a few people to provide dishes that don’t contain these ingredients so that everyone can enjoy the party.)

  120. Oh, Volcanista, that totally wasn’t meant as a slam against chemists! It struck me as more of a statement about highly processed foods vs. more natural stuff, i.e. butter.

    I’m sorry if it came across as hurtful. :( Truly.

  121. My mom’s a nutritionist, and I can tell you that, among professionals, the jury is definitely not still out when it comes to margarine vs. butter. They pretty much all agree that a moderate amount of butter is far better than any margarine. Period. The only reason that the jury is thought to still be out is because of the ridiculous amount of power that the edible oil industry (aka corn oil industry) has with the USDA and other agencies. Isn’t it interesting that the USDA condemns all trans fats on its website while still recommending margarine over butter? Margarine is hydrogenated, which makes it trans fat plain and simple, but they make this all murky and confusing in order to keep the industry happy. Corrupt bastards.

  122. short story: about a month ago my family gathered together to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. my dad made these AWESOME cheeseburgers. i was loving every bite of it. ^_^

    then my oldest sister surprised me. she asked if i was falling asleep. i told her no, that i was just enjoying the food. (i was closing my eyes and floating in a bliss of tastyness.) she looked at me like i was a bit odd. oh well. ^_^

    among my family, i am currently the fattest. my parents have been on some diet or restriction for as long as i’ve known them. my sisters are both dieting to lose “preggers” fat. i’m the only one accepting my weight, and accepting that food is GOOD. it makes meals a little awkward at times, but i’m derailing from my point.

    it should not be “shocking” for someone to enjoy food. aside from pure nutrition, food is meant to be delicious! when i dieted, i used low-sugar and low-fat substitutions. it was rare for me to eat a meal and think, “now THIS is satisfying.”

    i don’t count calories or fat grams anymore. unfortunately i still have to count carbs because of diabetes, but i keep my eyes on that number only. i have found there is such *freedom* in eating what satisfies me. eating without worrying about weight is a difficult hurdle to leap, but well worth the struggle.

    and as a note about processed foods and additives – i agree that a lot of it is bunk. to be honest i don’t believe much research anymore, since it’s all pretty dang biased. but i do know that i finally figured out that aspartame triggers depression for me. i don’t know why or how, but it does. (i was having major depressive episodes and i couldn’t figure out why. then i realized they were happening every time i consumed something with aspartame. even gum!) i cut out the aspartame, and the random depressive episodes stopped.

    this could be a fluke with my body. i don’t know. but i think it’s more important to listen and pay attention to our internal cues than to leap at the latest “research.”

  123. Well, OF COURSE it’s common courtesy to serve guests food they can eat, that’s not in question. Sweet Pete on a pogo stick, I’m a “good Midwest girl”; I know how to do hospitality. I’ve had lots of dinner parties with a mixed guest list, and everyone left with happy tums.

    That’s what *should* happen, but it *isn’t* happening. I don’t know why, clearly Vidya doesn’t know why, either. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be hurtful to be excluded, but they *know* she’s a vegan. The why doesn’t really matter.

    Really, what other solution is there? A confrontation? There’s that minefield I mentioned. They’re breaking the social contract by excluding her, but that doesn’t give her the right to break it, too, by imposing her dietary demands on others.

  124. Ha, Coco, I am not that sensitive. :) I maintain that the natural vs. unnatural categorization is a false dichotomy, but I did not take it personally! I’m actually a geochemist, and the “real” chemists would totally look down on me.

    hoshi, that’s a really good thing to point out. No matter how “natural” the source of an ingredient, if it does bad things for you, it’s totally valid to make that observation and avoid it! And there are certainly some preservatives and whatnot that have been used over the years that are pretty questionable (and unnecessary) in terms of safety. The FDA has been terrible historically about making sure these things are tested and regulated well.

  125. To answer the butter vs. margarine debacle in cookies….

    Butter makes cookies spread and dry out more because of the high water content, so you have to use a fat that’s more solid at room temperature.

  126. ChloeMireille, I never knew that about butter in cookies! I always use butter in my cookies, and they’re never dry, but maybe I compensate by deliciously undercooking them. :)

    Relatedly, does anyone have a strong opinion on melting/not melting butter for chocolate chip cookies? I always melt it all the way (i.e. to liquid state), which I find makes the dough taste way better (to me, anyway), but I’m not sure it makes much of a difference to the final product. Anyone else have a preference? (I basically use the tollhouse recipe, fyi.)

  127. Though correlation hardly proves causation, I was thrilled to note that I only eat full-fat dairy when I saw this study:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6400171.stm

    Also, full-fat dairy actually tends to be better for the lactose-intolerant than lowfat or fat-free. Skim milk and low fat milk products are usually supplemented with additional milk solids, sugars and other derivatives to give them substance and make them more appealing.

    I’ll take the real thing, please.

  128. Volcanista – phew, I’m so glad I didn’t offend b/c you’re one of my favorite peeps to read comments from here.

    Also, totally seeing your point about natural/unnatural – I mean, cocaine is a plant-based drug. Poisonous mushrooms that can kill one in seconds are completely natural. Scorpion venom – 100% natural. None are generally thought of as good for you. Heh.

    Thanks for giving me some chemistry for thought. ;)

  129. Jenny1144: Relatedly, does anyone have a strong opinion on melting/not melting butter for chocolate chip cookies?

    My only strong opinion on cookies is if they taste good to you :). So if what you’re doing gives results you like, there’s no reason to change.

    Having said that, melting butter does change the texture of the cookies. Quoting from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher (I mentioned it previously, I love this book) in her cookies section: “Butter is hard as a rock at one temperature. Then, only slightly warmer, it is soft and just a little warmer it melts. If you use a fat like butter that melts over a narrow temperature range, shortly after the cookies go into a hot oven the butter will melt and the cookies will spread.”

    So if you’re melting the butter ahead of time you’re doing this step outside the oven which would change the spreading characteristics.

    When I make chocolate chip cookies, I use half butter and half Crisco for the fat. The Crisco melts over a wider spectrum so the cookies stay a little thicker, which is how I like them. (But there’s still all the buttery goodness.)

  130. Wow, this is truly the most amazing example I’ve ever seen of a case where literally everyone is wrong.

    In other news, this blog is otherwise very sane and awesome. Keep it up!

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