Vegetable Shortenings

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Cottolene (N. K. Fairbank & Co., 1892), Crisco (Procter & Gamble, 1911), Primex (Procter & Gamble, 1926), Parfay (Swift & Company, 1930), Spry (Lever Brothers, 1932), Swiftning (Swift & Company, 1947), and Golden Fluffo (Procter & Gamble, 1955) were vegetable-based products marketed to American consumers as “digestible” and “pure.” Originally sold in tins, these semisoft shortenings were promoted for frying as well as baking. Vegetable shortenings were embraced in particular by the Jewish community, because according to kosher laws they were considered “pareve”—suitable for use at meals containing meat. Corporate kitchens produced booklets touting better flavor, crispier crusts, and richer results. Hydrogenation made the product shelf-stable. Historic descriptions concerning health and cleanliness in the realm of food production help twenty-first-century readers understand why “modern” homemakers favored commercial products over “natural” ingredients.