Abom-Edible #4: Crisco

Published on: 06/14/2015

My mom, like many other moms, always used Crisco for baking

I have a confession: I’m not always as forgiving as I’d like to be. Once I’ve been wronged, I tend to be a little wary. And Crisco, you did me and millions of other Americans wrong for many, many years. Of course, the blame ultimately lies on our shoulders, since we didn’t trust our intuition from the start…

There are very few things I collect. Two things, to be exact – and they both revolve, not surprisingly, around food. One are antique dishes. The other are vintage recipe booklets, often published by makers of certain kitchen appliances or particular food brands, and used as marketing tools back in their day. My absolute favorite booklet is from Crisco, printed in 1944 and titled “Recipes for Good Eating.” On the front cover is a mother and her daughter, dressed in identical red gingham aprons, making cookies together – it’s hard to picture a more idyllic home life. And on the back cover is Crisco’s slogan at the time:

Yes, folks. “It’s digestible!” was their brilliant marketing campaign. Because before Crisco was invented, people just used lard to make their piecrusts. All natural, chock full of saturated fat, but familiar lard. And when something cooked up in a lab came along to take its place, people were, not surprisingly, a bit cautious. We took some convincing. We let ourselves be convinced. Because we always want to believe that there is something better.

Many years later we found out that Crisco was made from trans fat, which, if you read my post on coffee creamer, you know is basically a fast track to pretty much every chronic disease out there. You also know that there is a push to remove trans fat from the food supply, so Crisco has reformulated. Their new ingredients are:


Soybean oil – a cheap and ubiquitous oil in the food supply, fully hydrogenated palm oil – a saturated fat, palm oil – more saturated fat, mono and diglycerides – an emulsifier and more fat, TBHQ – a chemical preservative, and citric acid – vitamin C (which also acts as a preservative).

So no trans fat. Call me a skeptic, but something still seems off. Maybe I’m being overly cautious? Or maybe it’s the highly processed nature of those ingredients? I mean, they’re not exactly peddling health food. But I’m going with my gut on this one, and going to pass this time around – no matter how digestible the new formulation is. Which gets at my ultimate point: I believe we know, deep down, what is healthy and what is not. We don’t need a billion research studies or government reports to tell us, and we certainly can’t rely on marketing campaigns that encourage us to ignore our suspicions. Instead, all we need to do is simply trust our own food intuition.


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