“Can’t have them. FILLED with cholesterol. And we have to switch to margarine.”

I hear this out of the corner of my ear. I’m a kid. These are big words. “What’s margarine?”

“It’s a butter substitute they came up with during the war. They saved the milk for the troops,” my dad explained.

I’m imagining the army drinking milk. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s still very strange.

“What’s it made out of?”

“Vegetable oil.”

“That’s another thing. From now on, we cook in corn oil, not lard. Or Crisco. It’s so depressing, especially the eggs.” My mom — then in her late 30s — had truly had a very, very, very hard year. She’d lost her teeth and had to get dentures. She’s had a miscarriage which led to a nervous breakdown and, as a result, a physical exam that revealed the hidden health problems. “I’m hypertensive,” she said.

I understood these radical changes a couple of days later when I was sent to the kitchen to get the butter, still called butter, but not butter. Looked like butter. I often (meaning always) took a tiny bit and ate it, sometimes prompting, “Don’t eat the butter!” Following my usual custom, I took a bit of this alleged butter.

Dark times.

We used “Fleischmann’s” even though the TV insisted that “Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet On It.”

They did not know back in the 1950s about two kinds of cholesterol or the actual impact of diet on the cholesterol in our bodies. Now I know that, although diet plays a part, cholesterol (mine, my mom’s, my grandma’s) is largely an inherited trait. But why? Even Oetzi, my “ancestor,” had high cholesterol. What was its purpose long ago before life was easy and convenient? But I knew by the time I was seven that an egg has 187 mg of cholesterol, and I didn’t know what a milligram was.

11 thoughts on “Margarine

  1. In the last years I have never met a person that does not have too much cholesterol. I cook with butter, spread it on my bread and yes, I am a cholesterolic. I was taking the tablets, the dreaded statins, and discovered I had permanent digestive problems which were ruining my life. Now I eat cholesterol because I no longer bother to think about it and no longer take the tablets. My life is now worth living thanks to cholesterol and the butter. Oetzi, it wasn’t the wolf or the mammoth, it was the cholestrol that finally got you.

  2. I think I’m going to make eggs for dinner. With cheese. Scrambled in butter. Eggs were bad, then they were good, then they were bad. Now, they are just eggs. A high protein, low $$$ dinner for two.

  3. I have never liked margarine – I figure if I am going to ingest fat calories, I am going to eat butter. It makes everything taste better, and beside a proper fried egg can only be made using butter!!

  4. I’d never seen margarine until I left home. Turns out, my mother — the original natural food woman of East Coast America — didn’t believe in fake food. No margarine. No food coloring. No junk food, unless you count chocolate. No spices. No salt (really, we didn’t own salt shakers. Sweet butter. We had the healthiest, blandest, worst tasting food in the whole neighborhood.

    Really GOOD chocolate, though.

    No Kool-Aid. We drank real juice. which she squeezed from fruit. I felt that everyone else had all the fun. Who KNEW that by adulthood, we’d be trendy?

  5. I was raised on butter, gave it up when it was disparaged for its cholesterol and I was told my cholesterol was borderline high, tut tut, then returned to my senses and to butter. I eat and enjoy it to this day but not in the quantity I consumed when young. I wish I’d known back then exactly how much fun I was having in so many ways due to my blissful, happy and healthy ignorance.

    • I love that. “…returned to my senses.” Mine isn’t borderline high but the paradox is that it seems to have no negative effects on the system it’s supposed to damage — except my right eye which was damaged long ago thanks to cholesterol, I mean in my early 30s. I take a statin and it keeps things in normal range.

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