Are you a margarine or butter kind of person? What kind of spread do you buy and how long have you been loyal to the same brand? I have a friend who can take one look at a person and tell you what brand they buy and he generally gets it right. It appears margarine can delineate social and cultural boundaries. However why are so many of us buying margarine in the first place?
According to Wikipedia
margarine was originally invented as a substitute for butter in 1869.
It is often cheaper than butter, currently in Sainsbury’s you can buy a 1kg tub of Flora for around £3 whereas 1kg of butter (regardless of brand) adds up to around £6.
Margarine can be dairy free, which is useful for people with dairy allergies or intolerances and for those observing specific diets. For example Jewish people do not mix milk and meat in the same meal.
Some margarine’s claim they provide great health benefits, when eaten as part of a balanced diet. These types of margarine’s often exceed the price of butter, some costing just under £8 a kg.
Many people are very ‘sold’ on the idea that margarine is the only substitute for butter (have a look at this article about the 2008 Passover margerine shortage
) however it really isn’t.
The key idea in margarine or vegetable spread is to create a solid fat which isn’t butter. Vegetable and plant oils are generally liquids at room temperature and to make them into solid fats which can be sold to the mass market, a certain amount of processing is needed. However why do we need perfectly good liquid oils, which are reported to have numerous health benefits to be turned into processed solid fats, which are potentially not as good for you?
Well often you don’t. Within many recipes margarine/ butter can be directly replaced with a 50:50 mix of oil and water (or oil and milk). I have been experimenting with substituting margarine/butter with oil. So far I have made biscuits, crumble mixture and steamed pudding this way. All tasted delicious.
Italians are well known for dipping their bread in good quality olive oil and it is very delicious. Our supermarkets are extremely well stocked with sunflower oil, various types of olive oil and a selection of speciality oils, for example sesame oil, almond oil, rice bran oil, rapeseed oil and so on. So we could use various oils to flavour our sandwiches if we wanted to.
Today I had a baked potato for lunch and I used a sunflower/ olive oil mixture instead of margarine to flavour my baked potato. It did seem a little greasy at first, but once the oil was absorbed it was fine and it tasted good (only a small amount is needed).
I think it is now time all those health conscious consumers out there put an end to the margarine madness and just use oil instead wherever possible.
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