Q: Your recent butterfly answers reminded me of something I’ve wondered about: Is butter naturally yellow? If so, why? Or do they add artificial colors as it once surprised me to hear that Kraft does to its cheddar cheese?
E.K., of Smithton
A: Yes, the sweet, creamy spread you enjoy on toast and waffles is naturally yellow, which is why early margarine makers faced a marketing predicament.
Their ersatz product was white, which made users think they were spreading lard on their pancakes. Now, I’ve tried pork schmalz (lard) in Belleville’s German sister city of Paderborn and it’s not bad with a good hefeweizen. But for the sake of my poor arteries I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.
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So, starting in the late 1880s, companies began adding a yellow tint to their margarine to win consumers over. This, of course, alarmed Wisconsin dairy farmers, who quickly had a law passed prohibiting such products from being artificially colored. But margarine makers did not roll over. They began to add packets of yellow dye, which could be mixed into the spread before serving. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-’50s when margarine was permitted to be sold again with the buttery color already added.
OK, I digress, but it’s a good way of proving that butter has had a yellow tint ever since humans began enjoying it perhaps 10,000 years ago, about the same time they may have begun domesticating animals. The word itself may derive from the ancient Greek word “boutyron,” meaning “cow cheese.”
So why is it yellow? Simple — the cow’s diet makes it that way. Cows eat lots of hay, silage, and grains, which contain natural pigments called carotenes. In high concentrations, carotenes give carrots and yams their orange color. In lesser amounts, they impart a yellow color to butter while still making it a source of vitamin A.
As for the artificial color in Kraft’s cheddar cheese, I probably have to clear up a misunderstanding. I’m not sure what you heard, but I’m guessing it involved the controversy over one of most every child’s favorite dishes, Kraft’s macaroni and cheese.
If you’ve ever purchased the product, you know that inside the familiar blue box is a packet of a cheesy powder that, when mixed with butter and milk, becomes the familiar orangish sauce that most kids wolf down.
But cheese powder is not simply dried cheese. Instead, a mixture of milk, milk proteins, milkfat and cheese culture is mixed with such additives as salt, various sodium and calcium phosphates along with citric acid, lactic acid and enzymes as preservatives and emulsifiers. Then to give this mixture its rich orange color, Kraft used to add artificial colors, including yellow 5 and yellow 6. It’s then sprayed through a nozzle and blasted with hot air to produce the powder.
But as you may know, consumers in recent years have become concerned about all the artificial flavors and colors in their foods, especially those they serve their children. So early last year, Kraft replaced the artificial colors with a mixture of such natural spices as paprika, annatto and tumeric. Nobody seemed to notice.
“We’d invite Americans to try our new recipe, but they most likely already have,” Greg Guidotti, Kraft Heinz’s vice president of meals, said in a statement released long after the new formulation hit store shelves.
Q: Why is La David Johnson, the black Army soldier killed in Niger, pictured wearing a maroon beret?
G.H., of Belleville
A: In 1943, Lt.-Gen. Sir Frederick Browning, commander of the British 1st Airborne Corps, granted a battalion of the U.S. Army’s 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment membership in the British Parachute Regiment and allowed them to wear the British maroon beret.
Ever since, the maroon beret has been an international symbol of airborne forces. That’s why Johnson, who was airborne-qualified and had been assigned to the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), is pictured in a maroon beret. On the other hand, Staff Sgts. Dustin Wright and Bryan Black were Special Forces-qualified, thus earning their green berets. Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson was neither airbone — nor Special Forces — qualified but still provided support services for the 3rd Special Forces Group, which is why he is pictured not wearing either beret.
The four-color “flash” emblem you see on both the green and maroon berets — yellow, red, black and white — represents the four pre-existing Special Forces units from which the 3rd Group’s members were initially drawn, hence its motto “From the Rest Comes the Best.” Other mottos include “We Do Bad Things to Bad People,” “Hard Times Don’t Last, Hard Men Do” and “Nomads. Anywhere, Anytime.”
Who is the only actor to have roles on the first five “Star Trek” TV series?
Answer to Wednesday’s trivia: A month before Yuri Gagarin became the first human space traveler, the world had already experienced its first space-related death. On March 23, 1961, Russian cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko was in the midst of a 15-day endurance exercise in a low-pressure altitude chamber with an atmosphere of at least 50 percent oxygen. He accidentally dropped an alcohol-soaked rag on a hotplate, setting off a fire that left him with third-degree burns over most of his body. He died a few hours later.