Have you guys seen this picture circulating the interwebs?
Not like I’m spending my time following ants around wondering what they will or won’t eat and following suit (by the way, when I was a kid, I saw ants KILL each other over drips of ice cream on a hot summer day, so they don’t always make smart decisions), but in this case, ANTS ARE REALLY SMART.
Did you know margarine started as a nasty tasteless product created to help make turkeys fat? And then it became what you know it as today during the war when the government needed a butter-like substance that could be shipped overseas to feed to soldiers that wouldn’t spoil before it got there (why they didn’t go for local French butter, The Most Amazing Butter On Earth, I have no idea). They obviously needed this stuff to taste like butter if they wanted the soldiers to eat it (the turkeys were clearly force-fed, so it didn’t need to taste good), so they deodorized it, bleached it, added in some food coloring, and artificial flavors, and BAM, you’ve got fake butter (aka trans fat), at a much cheaper price than the real stuff.
I find myself getting all evangelical whenever the topic of butter vs. margarine comes up in conversation (butter might as well be my religion. Ask anyone who knows me.). Much to my surprise, Danes have been bred to believe that margarine (and other vegetable oil butter blend lookalike spreads) is GOOD for you, and so, without fail, every Friday morning for “morgenmad” at work I see a tub of Arla’s Kærgården Fedtreduceret (ingredients: butter, water, unhardened vegetable oil, lactic culture, and less than 1% salt) purchased to accompany some bread and cheese (don’t worry, fellow Americans, I’ll write a whole other post about how bread and butter and cheese does NOT a breakfast make). It’s not 100% margarine, sure, but I guarantee you that because it’s reduced fat (“fedtreduceret”) that means it’s at least 60% margarine.
The question I keep asking myself (and my coworkers) is: WHY MESS WITH THE REAL THING? Not only is butter absolutely delicious (on everything), but it helps you absorb vitamins in other foods (yes, even from the bread and cheese you’re eating it with). It improves the taste of anything you cook in it BECAUSE it makes those easier-to-absorb vitamins more bioavailable, and if you get it from grassfed cows (which you should), you’re getting an extra dose of the vitamins those cows are getting from eating grass that has been exposed to sunlight (hel-lo vitamins A & D, how you doin’?). Do any of these amazing things happen when you eat vegetable oil? No. I’m pretty sure the only reason anyone buys Arlas Kærgården over Lurpak Smør (or some other brand) is because it spreads immediately out of the fridge, which means you don’t have to wait ten minutes for a stick of butter to soften before eating. I guess I’m not really shocked that convenience has overshadowed quality. In the case of Denmark, people may also go for the fake stuff in order to save themselves 2 kroner, because of the recently implemented Fat Tax (aka: the stupidest thing the Danish government has done in the past decade).
Lucky for you guys, you don’t just get to read my blog about why margarine (and other vegetable oils) are gross, you can read why it’s gross from a real doctor who just posted about it too: Canola Oil: The Blob That Ate Butter & Olive Oil. In that article (and some of the follow-up comments), there is a breakdown of exactly why canola oil, and safflower oil, and rapeseed oil, and sunflower oil, and soybean oil, and corn oil, are all bad for you. The only time they are not bad for you is if they have been pressed by hand, in which case you still shouldn’t use the oil to heat anything in it (because it oxidizes and mutates the cells when you do that, and then those cells get stuck in your arteries and make you a perfect case for a heart attack).
Rest assured that when I eventually start sharing recipes on this blog, none of them will include vegetable oil. Please do yourself a favor and take after the ants: replace your margarine with butter. Now.