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How Crisco Went From Cryst to Disco

The American History Museum covers all things grease for its April Fool's Day conference open to the public

The less-than-annual April Fool’s Day conference at the American History Museum takes on all things grease this year.

In case you missed the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association‘s national conference this past weekend in Washington, D.C., the American History Museum is offering another chance to have some academic fun, including a repeat performance from Jim Deutsch, curator at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage on the wonders of Crisco. “Laughing out Lard: The Folklore of Crisco,” explores the early days of the shortening’s marketing up through its current slang connotations, most of which Deutsch says can’t be printed.

In honor of April Fool’s Day, the American History Museum is once again getting as wild as a scholarly institution can and throwing a just-for-laughs conference all on the topic of grease. The tradition began in 1991 with a thorough investigation of Jell-O and continues this year with an art and food contests as well as paper presentations that are encouraged to be historically accurate when possible.

Presentations begin at 1 p.m. in the museum’s Warner Brothers Theater and include discussions of “Comic Art and the Manly Do,” “Lard Times Come Again No More: Resurrecting the Traditional Aesthetics of Our Nation’s Lost Grease, Fat, and Multi-purpose Lubricant,” and “Greasepaint Glamour.”

In addition to looking at some of the more outrageous modern uses of the word “crisco,” Deutsch says he will cover the product’s early naming–”Crisco is an acronym for its main ingredient, which is crystallized cottonseed oil. Apparently, the name Cryst was considered at the time of its introduction (in 1911), but was rejected for obvious reasons,” its clever marketing courtesy of Procter & Gamble– “Your stomach welcomes Crisco.” This is Sandy Becker saying, “Keep cooking with Crisco. It’s all vegetable. It’s digestible,” and even playing a track with the lyrics, ”Disco, disco, disco. I am going to Mount Kisco. I am going to buy Crisco / To bake a cake so I can / Disco, disco, disco.”

 

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About Leah Binkovitz
Leah Binkovitz

Leah Binkovitz is a Stone & Holt Weeks Fellow at Washington Post and NPR. Previously, she was a contributing writer and editorial intern for the At the Smithsonian section of Smithsonian magazine.

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