SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University Library.
ALAN MATHIOS: Hi, everyone. My name's Alan Mathios. I'm the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan dean of the College of Human Ecology. And I'm really pleased to welcome you to the 2016-- because it goes across academic years-- '17, Dean's Fellowship recipient in the History of Home Economics.
This presentation is a part of a long history of our celebration of where the college is now and its links to where the college was as its founding, as a college of home economics. And I'm constantly struck. I've been dean for 10 years now. And the current mission of the college is improving lives by exploring and shaping human connections to natural, social, and built environments.
And when I look at that mission, it's very clear to see the connections with the original vision of Martha van Rensselaer and Flora Rose and the emergence of home economics into human ecology, into our current manifestation of that. It's multidisciplinary. It's focused on practical applications of science, to improving people's lives. It really started at the household, at some level. And now we've expanded the mission to be the household, to the community, to the nation, and to the international global marketplace. And so it's wonderful to see where it is now and to think about our connections.
Just to put how impactful our Dean's Fellowship has been-- and so we're expecting lots of good things from this now.
Not to be intimidating at all. From our previous scholars, here's a list of a few books written by our previous Dean Fellows. In 2016, Nancy Berlage published Farmers Helping Farmers. In 2015, Gwen Kay published a book called Remaking Home Economics. In 2014, Amy Bentley published a book, Inventing Baby Food-- Taste, Health, and the Transformation of Food in the United States.
Charlotte Blitekoff published a book entitled, Eating Right in America, the Cultural Politics of Food and Health. And in 2013, again, Helen Zoe Veit published Modern Food, Moral Food-- Self-control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the 20th Century. It goes on and on and on. So we're expecting lots of books.
And so who are we going to get this book from? Well, today it's my great pleasure and my honor to introduce Dr. Robins, who will present-- and it's up there-- "As Good as Butter". So now it's "Better than Butter?" What do you know? Home economics and the new fat, 1890 to 1990.
Dr. Robins is an assistant professor of Global History at Michigan Technology University. He earned his PhD in history at the University of Rochester in 2010, and taught at Morgan State University, before joining the faculty at Michigan Tech in 2012. His first book, Cotton and Race Across the Atlantic, was published by the University of Rochester Press in 2016. Based on government archives, newspapers, and often overlooked business records, the book examines the failure of British colonial cotton-growing projects-- drum roll, because I have to change pages here-- in sub-Saharan Africa, and highlights the ways in which Americans, especially African-Americans, influenced events in Africa.
His new project is a brief history of palm oil, which is the first stage in a longer study of the changing place of fat in the global diet. Robins teaches courses in world history, economic history, and the history of capitalism and industry. He also serves as a coordinator for Global Issues, an interdisciplinary course designed to introduce first-year students to contemporary events through the lens of different social science disciplines. How Human Ecology is that?
And just one comment-- so it's really intriguing, this talk, for me. My own research is focused on how consumers diets have changed the response to the marketing of different types of fats-- saturated, polys, et cetera. And so the way in which the fine information we need to create strong diets and health are so related to the long, long history of how we promote, how we inform about the broad issues in diet and nutrition. So it's my great pleasure to introduce to you again, Jonathan.
JONATHAN ROBINS: Thank you. Thank you, Dean. It's a pleasure to be here. I'm grateful to the dean, the College of Human Ecology as a whole, to the University Archives, and particularly to the committee for this fellowship that I think took a chance on what was a speculative proposal. I was initially drawn towards one particular collection that I'm working on for another project.
But I pitched a much broader project, where I said, I don't know what Home Economics at Cornell did with fats, but I'm sure they did something. And so I think it was a fruitful six weeks I spent here. I'm going to somewhat under-deliver on the subtitle there. I'm probably going to cut this talk off around 1960, in the interest of time and questions.
But the talk today is addressing part of my long-term project on the history of fats in the certainly the American diet, but the global diet, looking at the consumer side. Most of my work in the past has focused on agricultural production and to some extent on manufacturing. But I've realized that consumption is a vital part of that. So this is my first foray into the world of the consumer side of food and agriculture more generally.
So to begin with, I just want to clarify. I probably don't need to clarify for this room, but my talk today is about fat in a very broad sense-- so edible fats, including liquid oils-- olive oil, canola oil-- as well as solid fats like lard, tallow, butter, as the title suggests. And what I'm looking at today is the introduction of vegetable fats into the American diet and, more broadly, the Western diet.
And this is a shift that was very fast in Europe, particularly Western Europe. In 1889 for instance, Europeans got about 70% of their fat from animal sources. I'm not sure if that's dietary fat or added fat. The source is unclear. But 70% in 1889, 6% by 1928. And that's actually gone up significantly since World War II. It's rebounded a bit. But that's an incredible shift in a major source of calories, a major part of nutrition.
The shift in the US is less dramatic. It's much slower, but the trend is very pronounced. From about 1900 to 2000, the proportion of animal fats in the American diet versus vegetable fats has tilted in favor of vegetable fats very heavily. And so I'm looking today at how that happened, why that happened. And I'm particularly interested in how and why people chose-- and this was a matter of choice in many cases-- chose to move away from foods that were very traditional, deeply embedded in local food ways, local cultural practices, why people chose to consume new fats, fats from plants.
And so we begin with a culinary oxymoron, hogless lard. What really got me interested in the American side of the story of fat was ads like this in newspapers. Hogless lard was originally a marketing term, employed by firms, mostly in Chicago, that had been caught adulterating lard with vegetable oil. They were busted in the 1870s. They started calling it compound lard to comply with truth in labeling laws. And they eventually hit on hogless lard as the eventual destination of this. So it's a very disreputable beginning in the US for vegetable fats.
David Wesson, who you may know, he has an eponymous oil brand still named after him. He joked that these early lard manufacturers believed, blessed is the man that makes two barrels of lard when there was but one before. So this is a history that begins in fraud. And these products were not particularly popular.
Their main selling point was that they were cheaper than the real thing. And margarine, which appears commercially in the 1870s in Europe is showing up by the late 1870s in the US. It's a similar story. It's a substitute food. People are not willingly buying it, if they can afford the real thing.
And to give you just a sense of the mood at the period that we're looking at here, this is a quote from-- actually, it's a meeting of horse breeders. It's a little off topic, but I think it captures the sentiment here. And this is a horse breeder giving a speech about why he thinks the horseless carriage is doomed. So he says, do we go back on pure butter on account of oleomargarine? Is real honey any less valuable because of counterfeits? Can cottonseed oil and suet take the place of lard?
And he thought this was a rhetorical question. Of course not! And as we know, the horseless carriage eventually put him out of business. I wouldn't say cottonseed oil put butter out of business. But anyway, that's really the topic here. How did we get from this to widespread acceptance of vegetable fats?
And I'll just note briefly that this is a global story. In the US, manufacturers turn to vegetable fats, particularly cottonseed oil, because it is cheap. In the 1870s, it was practically free because it was a byproduct of cotton fiber production. Before the 1870s, most cottonseed was used as fertilizer. It was plowed back into the soil, or it was burned in some cases. So it was a very cheap resource.
And globally in the 1870s and 1880s, European imperial powers began acquiring tropical colonies. And most of these are not full of gold mines and diamonds. Most of them are very expensive. And European powers across the tropics, in both Africa and Asia, focus on vegetable fat production, from coconuts, oil palms, ground nuts, as a way of generating revenue from these colonies. And so globally, there are new sources of vegetable fat arriving on the world market in the 1880s, 1890s, and particularly by the turn of the 20th century.
This is from a French ad for a coconut butter, which I think is still sold actually. And I should note that these colonial powers include the US after 1898. With the conquest of the Philippines, Philippine coconut fat becomes a major import.
So we have a supply of vegetable fats available. They're cheap. We also have demand factors in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The price of food globally was on an upward trend, all the way up until 1914. Many of the early pioneers of nutrition science were deeply concerned with malnutrition and the questions of effectively starvation due to expensive food. People knew that if you eat a widely varied diet, you were probably going to be healthy.
But in many urban areas, as well as rural areas, people could not afford a widely varied diet. And so people were concerned about malnutrition. Flora Rose, for example, wrote a pamphlet in 1912 about the cost of food, and it's generally about how to economize. This is a very classic early home economics text here, how to save money in your shopping and so on. But there is a real Malthusian undertone, even in this pamphlet.
Rose quotes another writer, who says, "The day of cheap meat is over and that of cheap white bread is passing." So there's a real fear that the world is entering a food crisis. And so finding cheap food and cheap fat in particular was a priority, for scientists, for entrepreneurs, for governments, in the industrialized countries in particular. So we have a supply and demand force sort of coming together here.
We also have two related phenomenon, and that is the growth of home economics as an academic discipline and the pure food movement, which are related in many ways. And I'll mention first that-- I'm not going to spend much time on it. It's been well-documented in a number of really great books. But early home economists and women associated with the home economics movement, one of the ways outside of academia that they found employment, that they found publicity, was by endorsing commercial products, by testing recipes, by writing cookbooks, and so on. This is lard here.
I think it's telling that one of the most successful of these-- I call them food entrepreneurs-- Sarah Tyson Rorer, who is one of the co-authors in this book, got her first big break with a vegetable fat. She endorsed a so-called olive butter in 1882, which did not contain any olives, or olive oil for that matter. And so women like Rorer, all of these names here are names that would have appeared in publications like Ladies' Home Journal, they were cookbook authors. They were instructors in schools. When they endorsed products, they sent a message that they were pure. They were safe. They were healthy. And in the context of the pure food movement, this was an important sales pitch.
And vegetable oil companies-- and I shouldn't say vegetable oil companies. They are essentially fat companies. They're really meat companies. They embrace the health claims of the pure food movement as a marketing tactic. And they use home economists to deliver many of these health claims, in popular magazines, in cookbooks. And so this is an ad from about 1905 and 1906, and this is right about when Sinclair Lewis's The Jungle is appearing.
It basically says, lard is making you sick. Lard is why you have indigestion. It's not because your diet is devoid of vegetables. It's because you're eating too much lard. And this product, derived from cottonseed oil, is clean. It's safe. It's not from the pig sty like lard is. It's nature's gift from the sunny south, as one ad called it. Solidified sunshine was one marketing slogan. And
As firms got more confident, and I think as home economists got more confident in their abilities to test and evaluate food-- and they were testing these foods in kitchens-- the marketing claims grew stronger and stronger. And I think what we see over the first decade of the 20th century or so-- I don't even know what this means. But what we see is what Carolyn Goldstein has called the sexual division of labor in the consumer revolution. And this is something that contemporaries very clearly recognized.
In 1913, for example, Martha van Rensselaer wrote, "Men are interested in the production of raw material, women in the use of that material." And so what we're seeing with these vegetable fats is, chemists-- men, on the whole, or exclusively at this point-- chemical engineers, developing new ways to use raw materials. They are not food until home economists can prove that their food and convince people that they are food by showing that they can be used in recipes.
And it's a bit of a tangent, but David Wesson, as I said, one of the pioneers of the cottonseed oil industry, he was a notorious crank. He was constantly trying to get people to eat cottonseed products. He would sneak cottonseed oil into foods. And people thought he was nuts. But cookbooks published by leading home economists-- this one's by the NK Fairbank Company, Rorer was a contributor-- normalized these foods. They said, these are just like other foods, just like other fats that you're eating.
Companies did approach the College of Home Economics at Cornell in search of endorsements, in search of research, in search of things that could be used to market their products. And this, for example, is from a letter from the Armour company that Flora Rose got in 1910. It's effectively asking her to test their margarine and prove that it's good, prove that it's a good product.
And they have to explain here. And this I think illustrates the sexual tension here. They have to explain, "We presume you are thoroughly aware that Butterine is endorsed by the leading scientists and chemists of the world." So they're saying, we know this is healthy. But we want you to say it's healthy and good to eat as well. Unfortunately, I don't have Flora Rose's response to this. I don't know what she said.
I will note that what I think she might have said was something like what she said to Monsanto, which asked her in 1919 to put saccharin into her cookbook as a sugar substitute. She basically tells them, no way. And this is just a very, very short letter, in which she says, absolutely not. I will not endorse saccharin. So I suspect Rose did not give Armour what they wanted. But other home economists were endorsing these things.
And I am not critical of them because this was one of the major forms of employment for many women. They were women in industry, which was exceptional in and of itself. But they were employed, in part, because they were credentialing these products. They were saying that they were, in fact, food and not simply chemicals.
So aside from advertising, aside from cookbooks, the home economists at Cornell did not actually have a lot to say about vegetable fats. And this took me by surprise in the period before 1914. And what I didn't realize going in-- and I should have realized this-- was, this is butter country. This is a butter college, a butter university. And the love for butter, the defense of the dairy industry was much more powerful than I thought. And one of my plans in the future is to look at it universities, probably in the south, to see if this influence is quite as pronounced. And I could talk about some of the regional politics in the question time if you're interested.
This lack of interest in vegetable fats changes in the First World War. And this has been excellently treated by Helen Zoe Veit in her 2013 book, so I'm not going to talk about it, the work of the US food administration, the work particularly of Cornell, home economists with the Food Administration. It's been done. I think Veit has a very convincing argument that the Food Administration helps normalize nutrition as a science, as a discourse, gets people thinking about nutrition as a lens through which they view food.
And how this relates to fat here, the kinds of extension work, other materials being produced by home economists associated with Cornell, they begin to endorse vegetable fats as substitutes, as a patriotic imperative, not because they like them, not because they think they're necessarily good to eat. They are convinced at this point that they are not unhealthy. There's nothing toxic in margarine, for example. They've established that in several trials.
And so they suggest, for instance, eat vegetable fats, margarine, corn oil, and so on, not because they're great, but because the soldiers need butter. And so this is not a very joyful message. It's not a very powerful endorsement. The kinds of propaganda that the Food Administration puts out urges conservation, substitution as a duty.
And in some ways, this works against margarine and the other vegetable, fats because it does nothing for their reputation as attractive food, as appealing foods. And in fact, the cookbooks, recipe books, pamphlets that were published often simply used the word fat in recipes. They didn't identify the fat. Because the message was, use whatever fat is available.
And southern cottonseed producers were particularly irritated that they refused to endorse margarine. They refused to use the name margarine in cookbooks. That finally changed in 1918 with this cookbook, which was apparently quite popular. It does identify margarine by name as an acceptable substitute. But there's still no great enthusiasm for these new fats.
And one Cornell extension writer said-- and this is late 1918-- butter is still the best fat, and she's specifically saying for children. And it turns out the vitamin A in butter was actually quite important. The experience of the Netherlands with wartime rationing, it leads to a break out of night-blindness or other visual issues associated with vitamin A. So it turns out they were right. But when the war ends, people have little reason to continue using these substitute foods. There's certainly no enthusiasm for them on the whole.
And the interwar period is something of a slow period for fat history at Cornell. And Flora Rose, in fact, has to tell a company that asks her about fat research. She says, I regret very much that we are not doing any experimental work with fats. And this is largely because nobody is funding experimental research in fats, at least in vegetable fats. When funding does start to come in in the Purnell Act, later the Bankhead-Jones Act, we do see some studies of fat, particularly with nutrition, with the metabolism fat in the human body.
Marion Pfund, for example, is hired in 1928 to teach in Food and Nutrition. She researches fat. But her charge is to research New York products, and that does not include margarine. That does not include hogless lard. So there's a focus on butter.
And this is just a letter. I just threw this in because I like it. Marion Pfund is telling Kroger, basically, buzz off. Kroger is offering money to endow research. But there's a suspicion that they're really seeking advertising, that they want Cornell to endorse products that Kroger is developing. So funding is an issue. The direction of research is interesting. And this is something that I'd like to look at in other institutions in coming years. How are they responding to the funding environment?
So what does happen in the 1920s-- and you see this in Marion Pfund's textbook on the chemistry of food-- is people, at least in academia, begin to treat food generally and fats in particular as chemicals. And this is something that comes out of the science of nutrition. Pfund's textbook basically stresses that fats are triglycerides, and they are more or less interchangeable.
There's this fundamental division between saturated and unsaturated, between solid and liquid. They have different performances in baked products and other foods. But outside of those two camps, the differences are irrelevant. She walks students in her textbook through experiments to see how different fats perform in different contexts. And so there's a growing acceptance of substitution at an intellectual level.
And I think this is really captured by the use of the word shortening, which does not appear in most American cookbooks before the 1920s. Procter Gamble, which introduces Crisco in 1912, is one of the early adopters of shortening. And shortening, it's much more common in British cookbooks. It's part of the vernacular in Britain. It is not part of the American culinary vernacular before the 1920s. But shortening is introduced as a catchall phrase to say, again, whatever shortening you can use. Is it Crisco? Is it lard? Is it something that's blended from them? It doesn't matter.
And the depression certainly gives people an incentive to buy more of these substitute fats. The low price of fats becomes a much more important part of their marketing appeal and part of their real appeal to consumers. And I haven't been able to quantify it. But my impression from looking at particularly the extension publications is that home economists were moving from tolerating substitute fats to encouraging people to use them to save money.
And in the 1930s, as these fats become consumed much more broadly, firms get a lot bolder. This is, again, Procter Gamble with Crisco, building on these medical claims, really these ridiculous claims that lard is going to make you sick and kill you. The message here is that Crisco will help you digest foods. These are, of course, totally unregulated claims. I can't pin this on home economists. I think this is really advertisers who we can blame for this.
But firms get much bolder. By 1937, for example, Durkee Margarine argues, they say, margarine is not a substitute for anything. It is an improvement, a scientific contribution to the cause of better food at lower cost. So there's this gradual normalization of these fats in the American diet. It doesn't happen in an instant with either the First World War or the Depression or even the Second World War. But as these moments of crisis push people to use these substitutes, some portion of the people who use them continue to use them when the crisis ends and contributes to the growing normalization of it.
The Second World War is where I drew the title of this talk, which I mistranscribed on the initial slide here, "As Good as Butter." The Second World War, there's a return to rationing, a return to a search for substitute foods, again, a lot of encouragement to eat vegetable fats. And in 1943, in the "Department of Food and Nutrition" newsletter, a student wrote with some skepticism about someone-- she didn't identify who-- doing research on a new soy margarine that was supposedly as good as butter. But she doesn't end it with a question mark. But the sentence continues to say it may be as good as butter, but I'll still eat the real thing. I still trust butter.
So at Cornell, butter remains king. But nationally, World War II is sort of the tipping point. Vegetable oil is there. It's widely marketed. It's much cheaper. And in the era of convenience foods that rapidly develops, in part because of wartime food processing technology, vegetable fats are preeminent. Many of the convenience foods, things like Bisquick, Betty Crocker cake mix, are not possible with animal fats, at least without a lot of high test preservatives.
Particularly hydrogenated fully and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, they were stable. They had properties that allowed them to be mixed very finely in things like flour, which you really couldn't do with lard. And so this brings vegetable fats further and further into the mainstream.
Of course, marketers were perfectly happy with this. They continued efforts to bring advertising into the classroom. And this was not a new phenomenon of the '50s. This ad, it's undated. This is from the Mann pamphlet collection on the left. I think it's about 1905, I'm not sure, 1910, suggesting that a home economics teacher in primary school should be showing people how to use Gilkey margarine. This is from 1958, from a magazine that's aimed at classroom home economics teachers, giving them a handy wall chart for how to fried chicken with Snowdrift cottonseed oil. They've dropped hogless lard a long time ago, as you can see.
And so what we see is, apparently, a normalization of vegetable fats and probably a general increase in the amount of fat Americans are eating, directly and in prepared foods. And this is from a 1957 article, showing the total calories decrease, but the percentage of fat seems to be on the rise. I'm a little skeptical of this. Because the early studies from the late 19th century, early 20th century, give a huge range. And the subject groups are not very convincing. They wouldn't pass peer review today.
And we can see here, the range in fat consumption was huge. I think what we're seeing is not so much that Americans are eating more fat individually. It's that the lower ends of that range are coming up, as incomes are rising and as these cheaper foods are becoming available. So I there is a national trend towards more fat consumption. But I'm not sure it's as pronounced as people imagine when they think back on the 1950s as this age of fried food and these big slabs of margarine on toast.
I put this table up here. I know it's just a wall of numbers. But this, I think, really illustrates the shift towards vegetable fats in the post-war era. It's already begun in the pre-World War II era, but it's completed in the post-World War II era. And it's mainly in that category of salad and cooking oils and shortening here that we see the vegetable fats appearing. Lard and tallow drops significantly. Butter drops significantly.
And I should have put another table on there. The amount of butter consumed in 1930 was twice that per capita. So it's already fallen significantly over the Depression and World War II. And it keeps on shrinking. So there's a very pronounced shift, a widespread acceptance of vegetable fats.
And I'll end here and make some time for questions by talking about the diet, heart disease link, concerns about fats in the diet. And this is something that, from what I've seen in the records, took home economists and many nutritionists somewhat by surprise. Most of the research into the links between diet and heart disease came from medical doctors and epidemiologists. And these findings were sort of splashed into newspaper headlines that really scared the public.
And I found that the home economics records were useful. But the Tompkins County Public Health records, which Cornell holds, were a really interesting window into the decade of the 1950s and how people dealt with these concerns about heart disease. I should note that Tompkins County Tuberculosis and Public Health Association partners with the American Heart Association in 1950, starts raising money for the Christmas Seals program.
They drop the word tuberculosis a couple of years after that. By 1957, they're blaming cardiovascular disease for 69% of all deaths in the county. And in 1957, they organized, with Cornell faculty, with extension workers, a whole series of forums and workshops, trying to explain what is going on. Are dietary fats, in fact, killing us or not?
And what we see is a very sober response? The Food and Nutrition department at the college-- I'm not sure what the administrative status is at that point-- but the Food and Nutrition newsletter, which is usually a fairly simple affair aimed at extension workers, graduates, published a really fat issue in 1957, walking people through the controversy, explaining the state of the art of the science. And Richard Barnes, who was dean of Food and Nutrition at the time, warned, he said, data are meager and interpretations are dangerous.
And the end of this newsletter said, for your information, not for publication. So there was a real concern about moving too quickly in any one direction. There was a great deal of disagreement among medical doctors as to, if saturated fat was causing or if fat was causing heart disease, if it was fat that was causing it, what kinds of fat? What was the role of cholesterol? There was a great deal of uncertainty. And the Nutrition Department, the Home Economics department, were very reluctant to move.
And in the 1960s and '70s, what you see is, I think, a very responsible approach to the controversy. I think this is one of the best examples of this. This is a 1964 extension pamphlet. And these authors, Marjorie Burns and Jerry Rivers, very plainly explain the chemistry of fats at a very sophisticated but very accessible level. They explain some of the theories about what is causing heart disease, particularly atherosclerosis.
And they conclude not by saying you should avoid any particular kind of fat, although they mention hypotheses about saturated fat, cholesterol. Their conclusion, if I may quote here, is that, "Present evidence suggests that the general public should follow the time-honored concept of moderation in eating practices." And this is something that pops up periodically in the extension publications and some of the internal histories of the extension group and Home Economics department.
They were really annoyed when the American Heart Association started advertising its prudent diet, as if this was a brand new thing. The argument that we see is that this is what home economists have been telling people to do from the beginning. Eat a range of foods, not too much. Don't eat any one food to excess. And throughout the '60s and '70s, this is basically the advice that they give. Use caution.
Marketing does not use very much caution. This is from 1957. A company called Pitman-Moore introduces Emdee, the margarine, which is only available in pharmacies. So just imagine a margarine as an anti-cholesterol medication. This is something that the FDA was not amused by, by the way. It's not on the market for very long.
But what we see is, I think, a tension between home economists-- at least in the Cornell extension service, as far as I can see-- trying to very rationally work through controversies, explain that there is in fact a controversy. Scientists, doctors were not in agreement about the causative factors of cardiovascular disease. But marketers went wild with this stuff.
I'll end on this one. This is my favorite, turning polyunsaturating into a verb. And I'm not sure what the role of Home Economics graduates in industry was in creating these sorts of advertising. I suspect probably not very much. So I'll stop there and I guess open up to questions, if that's all right.
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New edible fats with names like Hogless Lard and Cottolene entered the American diet in the late 19th century, and Americans sought help from the first generation of home economists to understand these novel foodstuffs. For the next century, experts in home economics and allied disciplines grappled with questions about the taste, affordability, and healthiness of fats. Cornell home economists deftly navigated early controversies, and then as national food policy shifted during World Wars and the Depression, helped shape new outreach campaigns explaining practical uses of the new fats and the science behind them. In the post-war era, debates over fat, cholesterol, and heart disease demonstrated the continuing importance of home economists as communicators who translated technical--and often contradictory--research findings for public audiences.
In a public seminar given at Mann Library on March 16, 2017, historian Jonathan Robins examines the changing debates over new fats in the 20th century American diet, highlighting the role of home economists in this history and the ways in which researchers in other disciplines appropriated nutrition as their own domain, divorcing food from its social context.
Robins is assistant professor of global history at Michigan Technical University, where he researches and teaches the history of commodities. He is the recipient of the 2016 College of Human Ecology Dean's Fellowship in the History of Home Economics.