Monday, September 12, 2011

Trans Fat Still Transforming Society

Anyone who took a look at Google's homepage today already knows the momentous anniversary it celebrates—the 112th anniversary of the invention of trans fat.

When it initially came out, trans fat was loved even more than it is today. It was not just the savior of Charleston, WV, but a movement for the people—one that provided hydrogenated soybean oil at a fraction of previous costs. People would take showers in it to soak in the glory that is partial hydrogenation. It's no surprise that “Trans” was the most popular boys name of 1899 and seventh most popular girl's name.

Since I had already checked out the Google logo, I decided why not learn a little about trans fat (other than its deliciousness). Some searching brought forth this article from 1959 Portland Examiner celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first time someone went into a coma from eating too much trans fat. It goes without saying, but this was a coma of delight. Also that it happened pretty much when trans fat graced us with its presence.

Trans Fat Still Transforming Society
By Otis Scott

Anyone who has ever eaten an Eggo, chugged Crisco or downed an Oreo has something in common—trans fat.

And as it celebrates its 60th anniversary, let us be the first to say, god bless you delicious soybean oil infused with hydrogen, you are truly delicious and allow the world to become a happier, healthier place.

Originally developed by Dr. Wilhelm Normann as a replacement for radiation, he soon found it tasted great atop his tripe ice cream. From there, word of mouth spread and placed the miracle fat in everything from potato chips to fast food burgers to trans fat itself (like a double stuff Oreo). Without hydrogenation, none of this would be possible.

You wouldn't guess it to look at him, but trans fat creator Dr. Wilhelm Normann is actually a slim and trim 89-year-old, not the 103 he looks. When he happened upon hydrogenation and the trans fat it entailed, he knew he was onto something.

“They say a pound of Crisco® a day keeps the doctor away, but I earned my doctorate at Universitat Freiberg,” laughed the very jolly German.

When it initially came on the market, companies marketed trans fat as a panaceatic cure all. Initially sold under the name “Glob o' Fat,” the miracle cure purported to simultaneously battle cancer, the Germans, plague, and those annoying people who consider mushrooms a “food.”
Early advertising campaign hyping up the health benefits of trans fats.

“I kind of resented the German attacks, but the 1910s were a crazy time,” laughed Dr. Normann in a way only a German can. “But don't worry, I'll get my revenge, ha ha.”

As Prohibition rolled its way through America, trans fat and Crisco cemented its spot in popular culture when sellers of trans fat products found out they made excellent mixed drinks. Patrons of the finest backrooms and speakeasies would order a William Howard Taft, a drink featuring Crisco stuck into bathtub gin. Much like the portly president, people had trouble removing the product, but when they did, they met a taste explosion.

And today, you cannot go an hour without using trans fats. That pie crust you had for breakfast? Shortening made it tender. The shelf-stable ball of lard for second dessert? Also solidified with trans fat goodness. There's literally nothing this invention cannot do. The only place it isn't is fruit, but what kind of red blooded American would touch that?

Who knows what the future holds for this most wonderous of food additives? We at the Portland Examiner certainly cannot predict the future, but we look forward to the day when companies proudly proclaim how much trans fat they have in their product, with big bold letters proclaiming “50 grams of trans fat per serving, but feel free to add more if you'd like more miracle-occurring to occur.

It will be a great day. It will be a day filled with trans fats.

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