by Pessimists Archive

Whatever you think you know of margarine, put that aside. When the spread was first invented in the mid-1800s, it was made very differently – and solved very real problems for the nutrient-starved people of the time. That sent the dairy industry into a full-blown panic, leading to margarine’s demonization, taxation, and very strange discoloration. In this episode, we explore how the dairy industry got politicians all riled up, what it says about industries’ ability (and inability) to halt innovation, and why it took more than a century for butter and margarine to finally square off in the most fair fight of them all: a food fight.


• Elaine Khosrova’s “Butter: A Rich History

• Megan Elias, director of gastronomy, Boston University

Science History Institute’s video on the original margarine recipe

Congressional testimony on the taxation of margarine, 1886

“Artificial Butter”  New York Times, May 2, 1874

 “The Uses of the Erotic” by Audre Lorde (the essay read by Ali Drucker)

Harpers Weekly response to margarine taxation, 1886

“The Butter Wars: When Margarine Was Pink” – National Geographic

Vintage Margarine Commercial, Imperial Margarine 1958

Vintage Butter Commercial, American Dairy Association 1956

“State Ban On Oleomargarine Led to Smuggling” – Wisconsin Life

“Wisconsin Ban on Margarine Targeted For Repeal” – Associated Press

• Thanks to our archival reader, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli

• Music: Our theme music is by Caspar Babypants. Others were “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon, “NotDrunk-stem-bass” by The Joy Drops, “Decompress” by Lee Rosevere, “To the Top” by Art of Escapism”, “Boulevard St. Germaine” and “Shake It!” by Jahzzar

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