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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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margarine was invented in France in 1869. At this time, during the crisis which led up to the Franco-Prussian War, butter was scarce and expensive. The Emperor Napoleon III therefore instituted a competition for a cheaper substitute, which was won by a certain Mège Mouriès. His theory was that butter fat was formed in an animal’s udder from its own fat and milk. So he mixed oleo, the oil obtained from beef fat, and skimmed milk and water and added a strip of udder to mimic the way in which milk is curdled with a strip of calf’s stomach. He found that if he chilled, stirred, and worked the mixture it formed a white, buttery mass with a pearly sheen, for which reason he is said to have named it ‘margarine’ after the Greek word for pearl, margarites.