Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is It Margarine or Is It Butter?

It's My Constitutional Right to Have Margarine That's White!

After 20 years or so, Quebec has buckled under to the blandishments and pressure of the international/interprovincial margarine lobby and agreed to allow margarine to be coloured yellow. No longer will we be able to purchase uncoloured margarine anywhere, no longer allowed to squeeze the little packages of food-colouring into the pale oleaginous blob of edible oil. I did an informal survey, and apparently this was a common rite of childhood for many.

Now I know you're wondering, especially if you're not from Quebec, what the hell Larry's talking about. Well lemme tell ya. Some years ago, the dairy industry in Quebec prevailed upon the government to pass a law requiring that margarine be left in its original state...white...so that there would be no doubt as to what it was. Margarine. Not butter. The argument was that if margarine were allowed to be yellow, consumers would be confused.

Confused? Yes, I know there have been those TV commercials where the margarine tub and the butter ball argue about which is better, or which is which, or who is whom, or what is what. I'll tell you what. Everybody knows the difference between margarine and butter, regardless of colour. But oh no! The dairy industry in its wisdom, and the government in its paternalism, decided that the pûr laine Québecois was too gullible, too ignorant, too confused to distinguish between butter and margarine. So they outlawed yellow margarine. And by doing so interfered with interprovincial trade. See, those big dairies desperately want to flood the Quebec market with cheap yellow margarine, but they were prevented from doing so. (I wonder if it costs more to produce white margarine?)

OK, I know it sounds like I oppose the Quebec government's decision all those years ago. In fact, I've only ever heard one argument in favour of the white margarine that really makes any sense, because surely it's clear that consumers are not so easily confused. But...in the restaurant, when you order the roti (toast)...then it comes already with the butter on...melted. Or is it margarine? Harder to tell then, eh? Makes you confused.

"Eh, garçon, q'est-ce que c'est, là? Butter or margarine?"

"Je ne sais pas, monsieur. Ees eet white or yellow? If yellow, zen eet ees buttair."

Now, this rationale makes sense to me. But it's the only one.

Except for this: freedom of choice! When the Quebec law was in force, Canajuns had a choice. They could have butter. Or they could have white margarine. Or...they could have yellow margarine. To be sure, if you lived in Quebec, you had to smuggle it across provincial borders, but we Canajuns are used to that. Laurentide beer tucked in the trunk from Montreal to Hawgtown. Montreal bagels. Smokes from Kahnewake. Innumerable levels of government have made experienced smugglers of us all.

I repeat. There was choice! Variety! Who wants to go into the dépanneur and be faced with an entire cooler full of the same thing? No! We want choice. We want the right to choose yellow or white margarine! Are you with me?

It's in the constitution. We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of the edible oil product of our choice.

Wait a minute.

That's the Murrican constitution.

In Canaduh we're allowed to have peace, order, and government. (Actually, the constitution says good government, but we seem to have given up on that a long time ago...)

I guess that's it then. Another long-standing Canajun tradition down the tubes. Next thing you know, they'll be telling us that poutine has too much cholesterol.

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