“Can’t have them. FILLED with cholesterol. And we have to switch to margarine.”
I hear this out of the corner of my ear. I’m a kid. These are big words. “What’s margarine?”
“It’s a butter substitute they came up with during the war. They saved the milk for the troops,” my dad explained.
I’m imagining the army drinking milk. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s still very strange.
“What’s it made out of?”
“That’s another thing. From now on, we cook in corn oil, not lard. Or Crisco. It’s so depressing, especially the eggs.” My mom — then in her late 30s — had truly had a very, very, very hard year. She’d lost her teeth and had to get dentures. She’s had a miscarriage which led to a nervous breakdown and, as a result, a physical exam that revealed the hidden health problems. “I’m hypertensive,” she said.
I understood these radical changes a couple of days later when I was sent to the kitchen to get the butter, still called butter, but not butter. Looked like butter. I often (meaning always) took a tiny bit and ate it, sometimes prompting, “Don’t eat the butter!” Following my usual custom, I took a bit of this alleged butter.
We used “Fleischmann’s” even though the TV insisted that “Everything’s better with Blue Bonnet On It.”
They did not know back in the 1950s about two kinds of cholesterol or the actual impact of diet on the cholesterol in our bodies. Now I know that, although diet plays a part, cholesterol (mine, my mom’s, my grandma’s) is largely an inherited trait. But why? Even Oetzi, my “ancestor,” had high cholesterol. What was its purpose long ago before life was easy and convenient? But I knew by the time I was seven that an egg has 187 mg of cholesterol, and I didn’t know what a milligram was.