Civilians can still experiment with hydrogenated fats at home, but while Catalan chefs can play with liquid nitrogen and celebrate candy-bar food additives such as lecithin as though they were the Philosopher’s Stone, heaven help the one Mayor Bloomberg catches with a can of Crisco.
The history of science behind the Crisco abolitionists” case amplifies the nostalgia. Hydrogenated fats came as an answer to one of the defeated South’s regional prayers”Lord, find us a use for cottonseed!
Their answer came shortly after the Great War ended, when a chemist named Raney turned a nickel-aluminum alloy into a catalyst that let even rancid cottonseed pressings soak up hydrogen enough to transform the stuff into the apotheosis of lard. Once they saw it and discovered it was not redolent of pig but instead perfectly tasteless, chefs went hog-wild with the stuff, and the already fat-happy cuisine of the Confederacy’s Mardi gras sector erupted into a golden age of airy corn fritters, crunchy fried oysters, and other crispy critters whose flavors the transparently bland trans fat allowed to shine through.
Today’s nanny state may deem Crisco a felony in a can, but in that innocent age, who knew that ingesting saturated fats that are rock-solid at room temperature could turn your arteries to lead? And who could resist the ravishing tide of all things fried that turned black cooks into unsuspecting agents of post-antebellum revenge? Once Madison Avenue started advertising this weapon of mass infarction, Crisco-powered cuisine rolled across America faster than Sherman could march though Georgia. By the outbreak of WWII, Southern-fried chicken had joined apple pie and Thanksgiving turkeys as part of the nation’s culinary patrimony.
I could go on, wondering why all the millions who have crossed our border from the creature’s native Mayan lands have brought along nary a decent turkey molÃ© recipe, but it is time to head out with a shotgun into the archipelago south of Plymouth to see if any birds want to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. Though the ritual hunt rarely succeeds, it always affords exercise enough to excuse a courtesy call on Colonel Sanders on the bleak way home.
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