Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Luck With That

Louis Napoleon is delighted with margarine!
Margarine was invented because in 1869 Emperor Louis Napoleon III decided to run a contest. He challenged someone - anyone! -  to come up with a butter substitute for the army and poor people - something cheap, in other words. A chemist named Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès came up with the very first batch of oleomargarine, made of beef tallow (rendered fat) and skim milk.

Jelke's Good Luck was a variation on the original oleomargarine. This 1926 Jelke's Good Luck cookbook  proudly lists the ingredients of the stuff: whole milk, "nourishing beef oleo fat," and pork fat. I think I'll just have strawberry jam on my toast, please.

Good Luck is a curious name for something edible, isn't it? It sounds ironic to me (but then I guess a lot of things do, really). Want some of our fabulous fat-filled so-called-vegetable margarine? Well, good luck to your taste buds. And also to your digestive tract. And your marriage:

Good Luck Margarine Life Nov 15 1937
Life, November 15, 1937
Biff: I don't understand! Money's no object, and're so cheap. How can you feed our little princess this weird yellow stuff, anyhow? And me. How about me? I can't eat this. I don't even know what it's called. It isn't butter, I know that.

Sally: You old stick-in-the-mud, I'm smiling at you but that's only because I'm saintly and fabulous - two personal qualities you know nothing about! The baby doctor said this Good Luck margarine is the best thing for children since Pablum, so ha ha!

Biff: I will never eat margarine, no matter what Dr. Binkie says!

Sally: Ha ha ha, darling! You've been eating it for weeks! Good one, huh? Isn't that funny?

Oh yes, this is going to end well.

Strange side note: I found this New York Daily News article about the seedy exploits of the Jelke margarine heir in the 1950s. You know, speaking of not ending well. I don't know whether the movie actually got made, though.


Ash said...

Fascinating! I love the retro magazine ads--they are a hoot! This was a great post. I wonder how different things would be if we really knew why and how most of what we consume was made? (like the origins of Splenda!)

Shieldmaiden96 said...

My grandmother told me that during the war the oleo in the store was white, and it came with a packet of yellow coloring that you mixed in to make it more butter-looking.
Every handwritten recipe I have from her lists 'oleo' rather than butter or margarine. Habit, I guess.

Barbara said...

Eating chemicals is progress! It's not like that "natural" stuff you get from cows, it's FORTIFIED!! Woo hoo!!

Art of RetroCollage said...

I remember my mother telling me that the reason you had to add the yellow food coloring yourself to the margarine is that the dairy industry wanted to sabotage the margarine industry and had laws passed making it illegal to sell margarine with the food coloring already mixed in.

Twisting the Spanner said...

Blimey, now I know a third amazing fact about Napoelon III:
1) First president of France
2) Last monarch of France (which was after he was president)
3) Commissioned the creation of Margarine.

I note the margarine thing comes mere months before his regime fell and he fled to Britain. Are the two things connected?

Anonymous said...

1950's version of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

I love how it says "finest spread for your children's bread".

Lidian said...

Ash - Yes, heaven only knows what's in Splenda...Actually I'm sure lots of people do, but I don't (must go look it up, followed by a fainting spell no doubt).

Shieldmaiden96 - Yes, I've heard of that. I think this Good Luck stuff must have had the yellow coloring packet too, for extra appeal.

Barbara - If it's fortified, it must be good! ;)

Eric - Oh dear. That totally makes sense, though.

Richard - Oh, I am sure they are. I also wrote about Napoleon III and a wicker eagle over at Virtual Dime Museum, I ought to link that into this post. What a guy!

Vickie - Yeah, it really is! But I'll bet it wasn't so hard to believe it wasn't butter.

Anonymous said...

I do hope Splenda is safe (it probably isn't though). I love it with my coffee.

Pam@GoRetro said...

Really interesting - thanks for the history lesson! I had no idea margarine's origins went back that far...I always thought it was a product of the beginning of the manufactured food revolution. No wonder I've always found the thought of eating it disgusting...

Marcheline said...

Where Biff puts the margarine, it doesn't matter what color it is! Heh!

Sherry Baby said...

I had no idea that margarine went back that far....
I just love the old adds! They are so fun. I have an old book on nursing.... some of things in there are scarey.... just reminded me a little of the margarine add...