Remembering when butter v. margarine wars were fought with taste buds | Wis.Community

Remembering when butter v. margarine wars were fought with taste buds

The butter vs. oleomargarine war, which Wisconsin thought it put to rest in 1967,has been in the news again, as the result of a to repeal the state law that makes it a crime for restaurants, prisons and schools to substitute margarine for butter unless a customer requests it.

The sponsor, a state legislator who has never surfaced before and claims his name is State Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), calls the bill prohibiting margarine substitution for butter "silly, antiquated and anti-free market."

Democurmudgeon  and discovered many restaurants in other states don't seem to know what butter it. the law Kooyenga (rhymes with Booyenga) wants to repeal keeps butter on the table here.

All of this reminded some old fogeys of the famous ole vs. margarine debate and taste test in the state legislature back in days of yore.

It was one of Marty Schreiber's finest moments, and one of the most embarrassing (and there is a lot of competition) for the late Gordon Roseleip. Schreiber was a young State Senator from Milwaukee. Roseleip, a flag-waving, God-fearing, commy-hating State Senator from southwestern Wisconsin, who sometimes lapsed into self-parody and seemed like the model for Foghorn Leghorn,  was also an oleo hater.

When Schreiber proposed a taste test to see whether lawmakers could tell the difference between butter and oleo, there were a number of takers. The Wisconsin Magazine of History, in a highly readable rehash of butter-oleo wars,

Schreiber invited his Senate colleagues to taste, while blindfolded,three samples—one of butter, one of margarine, and one of a low-fat dairy spread developed at the University of Wisconsin—to see if they could identify them correctly. Senator Leverich cannily declined to participate, saying “I don’t want to give [the margarine supporters] any ammunition,” but Senator Roseleip agreed to join the test.

Most of the tasters did quite well—thirty-two correctly identified butter, four thought it was margarine, and one thought it was the new dairy spread. Twenty-eight of the tasters identified margarine correctly, six thought it was butter, and two thought it was the dairy spread. Asked which they liked best, twentyone favored butter, seven the new spread, and five the margarine.

To the joy of the media and the repeal supporters, Senator Roseleip was among the errant, mistaking margarine for butter.

It is Roseleip's mistake that has lived on in Wisconsin Capitol and political lore. No one remembers that most taste testers got it right.(That's Schreiber applying the test to the blindfolded Roseleip in the photo.)

In the next session, yellow margarine finally became legal in Wisconsin.

 

Published

September 27, 2011 - 6:14pm

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