All my grandmother’s recipes had the word “oleo” in them. I used to wonder what the heck oleo was but since, to my 10-year-old mind, it sounded like the word “Oreo” I couldn’t help thinking that it had to be great. It wasn’t.
Oleo is short for oleo-margarine, a product born out of Napoleon III’s desire to have a butter substitute that could be used by the armed forces and the lower classes. The first margarines, beginning in 1871, were a combination of seed oils like cottonseed and the naturally harder animal fats. By the time of the Great Depression in the 1930s and on into World War II, there was such a shortage of animal fats that margarine was made completely out of seed oils (what we call vegetable oils, even though they are not made of vegetables) – rapeseed (canola), soybean, cotton seed, sunflower seed, etc.
Oleo spelled heart disease for that particular grandma and her husband, who were the first in both of their family lines to suffer from heart attacks. They were part of a growing trend in America, whose incidence of heart disease correlated with the increased use of margarine, shortening and other highly processed oils as a replacement for good, old-fashioned butter and lard from animals raised on pasture.
Butter is a mormodonna’ best friend. Grumpy husband? Slather butter on his everything. That child who seems to fight you on every little thing? That child needs some butter! There is a reason that there is the phrase “butter you up” – it means to put you in a good mood so that I won’t be afraid to ask you about something. Butter makes for cheerful people. A happy home is built on butter. Margarine, funny enough, is still used today by the military, prisons and the lower classes.
Scientifically, there is a reason for all that our foremothers knew by experience. Butter is America’s best, most easily absorbed source of vitamin A (carrots only contain pre-vitamin A). It contains vitamin E, lecithin (for proper absorption of fat), selenium and anti-oxidants, including cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is an anti-oxidant, as well as the foundation for a healthy endocrine system, since all your hormones are made using cholesterol. If you don’t have the cholesterol your body needs, stay tuned for mood swings! (For more information, checks out the Weston A. Price Foundation’s “Why Butter is Better“)
Put that butter on everything. You’ll stay fuller, longer and it will keep your blood sugar from spiking. In Mormodonna’s low-fat days, she would eat her oatmeal with skim milk and strawberries, and it would make her want to eat some french fries around 10am. These days, she soaks her oatmeal or brown rice overnight (to make it more digestible), cooks it in the morning and puts a nice pat of butter in there for “staying power.” No more 10am munchies; she can go all the way to lunchtime.
Brown rice porridge is a favorite around here, and since rice is one of the grains with the lowest amounts of phytic acid, it’s not always necessary to soak it overnight. Just put a cup and a half or so in the blender until the texture is like couscous. Then put a few tablespoons of butter in a pan with the blended rice, add a generous amount of whole milk (preferably raw), maybe add some water as well (that raw milk is expensive, you know), add a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla. Then whisk over medium heat until the porridge thickens, at which point you can turn the heat down to very low, stick the lid on and wait for the kiddos to be dressed and faces washed, ready for breakfast.
Once the porridge is in the bowl, add another big pat of butter and whatever else suits your fancy. You and the fam are on your way to a snack-free day…a three-square-meal day with that healthy fasting in between meals that we have forgotten is the ideal for most people.
“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” ~ Isaiah 7:15
Listen to Isaiah, mormodonnas…refuse the evil and choose butter!