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 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. 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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Anonymous said...

It all sounds pretty dumb to me. Butter is naturally lellow. Fine. Lellow butter comes in packages or tubs. On the packages and on the tubs it tells you that it is butter. Right?

So margarine is white. In about 1960 still, margarine tasted yuch. Wagon grease my dad used to call it. Then they started to improve the taste, and coloured it the friendlier looking lellow. On tubs and on wraps and packages it states that there is margarine in it. Even if it tastes like butter. It is quite clear that it is margarine. So who gets confused? In restaurants butter comes usually in tiny tubsies. So it comes down to the cooking. Do they use butter, margarine, lard, cooking oil? Probably the last.

Personally I prefer soya margarine. It is white. I like the taste, even better than butter.

Don't need no government to tell me what's what. You'd figure governments would have more serious matters to keep themselves busy with.

Larry Keiler said...

I agree with you WT, but here's the thing. The dairy industry is big. It's the big cheese. There's a lot of money involved. Lots of jobs. Lots of farmers. Where there's money, there's government. Simple as that.

"Don't need no government to tell me what's what?" That sounds like radical anarchist talk to me...better watch what you say...CSIS and CIA read Mental Blog regularly. It's in the Field Manual that they must do so.

Anonymous said...

Well, if they must they must. tsall too complicated for me. I vote for soya margarine 'cause I like it.

But butter cookies, meaning shortbread, now they want butter. Unsalted butter, not too much sugar to get that melt in your mouth texture and taste. My standard Christmas cookies recipy. Decorated with almonds and marichino cherries.

Unsalted butter always costs more. Much more than salted. You'd figure if something is missing, not needed to be added, it should be cheaper. But the market for unsalted butter is small. And I suppose salt preserves. So unsalted may not be good to be stored as long, although with our freezer systems...?

Oh well. I only splurge on it once a year. Oh no, twice a year. also with Easter when I feel that craving for matzes, and the only way they taste so good to me is with unsalted butter, (not kosher anymore) and a sprinkling of white sugar. Childhood memories. Comfort food.

Am I Jewish? No. Did I grow up in a Jewish neighborhood? Yes.

Do anarchists get hunted up by the F.B.I.? Do I have to look over my shoulder now???

Help! I've written and I can't get up!