Once the emperor of the French Napoleon III promised a good reward to anyone who would create a butter substitute for the military and the poor. The French chemist Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès answered the august call and invented a method of catalytic solidification of vegetable and marine animal fats, technically speaking. The chemist named the resulting product “oleomargarine,” having blended the Latin word for oil and the Greek word for pearl, which, rumor has it, was inspired by the pearly gloss of the fat droplets. On July 15, 1869, Mège-Mouriès patented the butter substitute under the trade name of oleomargarine. However, “oleo” was later dropped from the word and margarine joined the war in both meanings of the word. The one, straightforward meaning is that the substitute product replaced the butter in the soldier’s pot. The margarine triumphed in the hungry stomachs in both world wars that befell the twentieth century.
The other margarine war went on the newspaper pages and in the corridors of power. The butter manufacturers felt a distinct doom, as the cheap product with a more or less acceptable taste threatened to lure away a buyer with a light purse. The butter manufacturers became restless and jumped into action. The war continues to this day.