Oil’s Well that Ends Well

There’s a new ad on TV for Country Crock margarine that makes note of that it is made from plants. I never thought about it that way but, yes, margarine is made from plants in that it is made from some vegetable oil and indeed, vegetables are plants.

Now this revelation didn’t have much of an impact on my life. (And to be honest, neither did the ad but I really can’t bad mouth ads much more in these posts as most of you know that advertising is my daughter’s bread and butter and that it’s probably ad money that will determine if my retirement village (and/or nursing home) will have an all-season pool and hot tub. (Probably not the nursing home.) In fact, I basically put it out of my mind as soon as that ad gave way to the next ad when uppermost in my mind was how many ads until the show comes back on.) (But, as so often, I digress.)

I really hadn’t thought at all about margarines and oils coming from plants until I was cleaning the kitchen counters and took a good look at the array of oils hanging out next to the stove. A couple of olives, a corn, a canola, a nondescript vegetable, a few favored with basil, thyme or some other herb, and one in an unlabeled bottle that I didn’t even remember pouring or flavoring. (Tasting it didn’t help much so it became the one eventually discarded making me feel good about having undertaken that whole particular chore.) But all that did make me think about where all these oils come from.

Olive and corn are pretty self-explanatory. But what is a canola? And just what vegetables are in vegetable oil? Since I also as so often have that kind of time, I looked them up. Canola is kind of scary in that it’s a genetic manipulation of rapeseed and those aren’t the kind of words you want in a sentence describing what ingredients you used in supper. Vegetable oil has no standard makeup but most have palm oil. Coconuts come from palm trees so where does palm oil come from? Apparently from a palm tree that doesn’t grow from a coconut which technical grows up to be a coconut tree.

Once I was done with the oils and moved onto the spices it didn’t get any better starting with old fashioned pepper. I have black, pink, and white. It seems that two of the three, black and white, come from the same plant which also gives us green and red (but not the red pepper that ends up as crushed red pepper – that’s a chilI which are the source of the peppers you slice, stuff, or otherwise turn into or in to tasty meals). The pink is some other plant all together. I got pretty confused by then and forgot what plant but I figured I really didn’t need to know.

Seeds opened up a whole new can of confusion. For instance, did you know about the caraway seed? It’s also know as Meridian Fennel and Persian Cumin, two spices that taste nothing alike. And it’s a relative of parsley even though they don’t look alike. But cilantro which grows from coriander seed does look like parsley but they aren’t related. Who know?

The whole thing made me happy I mostly stay out of that corner of the kitchen when I’m not cooking.

That’s what I think. Really. How ’bout you?


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