“Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet”

Image of woman baking and a can of Crisco
Source: Balanced Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill

Shortening is made by hydrogenating soybean, canola, or other oils to make them solid and shelf-stable. Today there is a debate about whether shortening is good or bad.  A hundred-years-ago Crisco, which is a shortening, was the “new kid on the block,” and its manafacturer had to convince cooks that it was better than lard and other animal fats.

Back then lard and other animal fats were generally produced by local farmers – so there were variations in the characteristics and quality. To convince cooks to switch to Crisco,  advertisements focused on its wholesoness and purity. Here is what a 1920 promotional cookbook for Crisco said:

Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet

Solomon was one of the keenest observers in all history. Referring to the good woman he said: “She looketh well to the ways of her household.”

Certainly good cookery is one of the most important of the things worthwhile in life and Crisco has been a contributing factor to the comfort and gratification of countless housewives and chefs who seek for delicacy and wholesomeness of their own cooking. Undoubtedly many lives are shortened by unwise choice of foods. Many others suffer handicaps in depleted energy through indigestion and malnutrition resulting from ill-prepared or badly-balanced foods.

Crisco is so wholesome in itself it may be used with perfect assurance that it will aid in the preparation of a chosen diet that will not only be well balanced but possess those qualities of tastiness and daintiness for which every good cook has striven from the days of Epicurus at his luxurious feasts.

The stomach is the human laboratory in which all chemical changes in food take place, either for weal or woe. Crisco is so clean and pure it always blends nicely with the right food combinations likely to remove causes of so many internal digestive troubles and consequent misery. To the American housewife we say try Crisco in your own cooking.

You will find how delicious and dainty the natural flavors of many foods can readily be when prepared with Crisco and thus tasted at their very best. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are using the kind of cooking fat necessary for wholesome, well-balanced meals.

If there is any question, you may desire to ask on dietary problems or cooking, feel perfectly free to write us and ask us. Our Bureau of Household Service will gladly advise you, for it is maintained in the interests of better cooking and happier homes.

Yours very sincerely,

The Procter & Gamble Company

Source: Balance Daily Diet (1920) by Janet McKenzie Hill


44 thoughts on ““Why Crisco with a Balanced Diet”

  1. My grandmother fried chicken in lard; my mother chose Crisco. Today, I don’t fry chicken. But: my grandmother switched to Crisco for pie crust, my mother used it, and so do I. It’s the only reason I use Crisco, but it makes an excellent crust. It has been reformulated because of health concerns. I don’t remember when that happened — maybe a decade ago. What made me laugh was the sudden absence of Crisco on store shelves when the pandemic hit. It was gone before the yeast disappeared.

    1. I noticed the same thing. Crisco and other vegetable shortenings were definitely something people were stocking up on when the pandemic first hit.

      1. Snappy lines did not seem to be as popular a hundred years ago as they are in today’s internet age when we are constantly inundated with information.

    1. Your comment applies to many advertisements from a hundred years ago. Many old ads are very wordy. I think that they appreciated a “good” argument for why something was a product they should buy. To me this suggests that most people had good reading skills back then, and that there was a shortage of reading material (as opposed to the abundance today) – so they liked lots of text both in articles and ads.

    1. I’ve also wondered about how healthy it was. I’ve seen articles that described the technical innnovations in the early 1900s that enabled them to turn cottonseed into shortening.

  2. In the interests of better cooking and happier homes. I love that line. Hey, Crisco has a spot on my shelf. I don’t buy it in the big tubs, but as we mentioned in earlier conversations, I do use it in pastry. Everything in moderation, right?
    Very interesting article, Sheryl.

  3. Crisco was a staple in our house growing up. My mother used it to make pie crusts believing it to be a healthier choice than lard or butter. I think it was the “clean” aspect of it that appealed to her, more than the taste. Lard was a messy thing, rendered who know how.

    1. I also have a sense that consumers really liked the “clean” aspect. It came in a sealed can, was white, and made in factories that were clean and sanitary.

  4. I don’t do much frying – just a mist of olive oil in the pan. However Crisco Butter flavor is perfect when making cookies as I use real butter and the Crisco (half and half) as it prevents the cookies from burning so easily as they tend to do if you use straight butter…

    1. I also use Crisco or other vegetable shortenings instead of butter when a greasing muffin tins or baking sheets because foods are less likely to stick.

  5. You know, I still keep Crisco in the pantry. I don’t use it often, but I have found I like mixing it with butter in cookies. Somehow they taste better with a little Crisco.

  6. My mother only used Crisco when I was growing up. For making biscuits and pie crust and frying chicken. There was an empty Crisco (metal) can on the back of the stove where she poured the used Crisco. She must have changed over to liquid shorting at some point because I know I didn’t use Crisco when I moved away from home.

  7. My that was quite the ad. Crisco does make good biscuits and pie crust, other than that I use butter,or olive oil. Remember when margarine came out in nice plastic bowls, that one could use after finishing up the margarine…

    1. I still have a few of those plastic margerine bowls around. I store metal Christmas tree ornament hangers in a bright yellow one. It’s lasted for years. Good grief, now that I think about it, I bet that it is at least 30 years old.

  8. I can’t imagine not having a can of Crisco and a bottle of the oil in my cabinet. I loved the part in “The Help” when Minnie explained to her employer the benefits of Crisco. She was right! I won’t use any other brand. Crisco did a good job convincing us!

  9. The Proctor & Gamble Company certainly used words and terms that were eloquent and descriptive in their advertisement. Some of their lines made me chuckle; ‘weal or woe’, ‘qualities of tastiness and daintiness’. Other than having a quality of tastiness, who knew those would be words to entice the home cook?

    1. I actually had to google “weal” to figure out what it meant. Maybe it was more commonly used a hundred years ago than it is now.

    1. I think that dainty was almost a slang word in 1920. Dainty food was what the “beautiful” people of that era wanted to eat, as compared to the heavier foods had traditionally been preferred.

  10. I used to bake all the pies in the restaurant where I worked. When I started out, we used lard in the crusts, but at some point we switched to Crisco. It was easier to work with, and I’m sure it was a lot healthier. But some of the older regular customers noticed the difference!

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