Professor Gross: How a Corporation Convinced American Jews to Reach for Crisco

Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Image of cookbook cover Crisco Recipes for the Jewish Housewife

NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, THE SALT -- With the wave of European Jewish immigration in the early 20th century, this was a sizable market, and companies from Procter and Gamble to General Foods hired Jacobs to learn about these potential customers. And these interest went in both directions, as new immigrants were eager to Americanize.

“Once Jews are living in a world of nation-states, they’re trying to figure out how to be German and Jewish, or French and Jewish; [Here,] they’re trying to figure out how to be American and Jewish,” Rachel Gross, an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University.

Professor Rachel Gross says when holidays come around, we think about family, and what it means to be part of a particular story. And if those stories are shaped by food, and immigration, and even product placement, that's okay. It's what Hanukkah is, says Gross — “Not some biblical story, or the rabbinic stories that come later about miracles and oil. But getting together and eating latkes with your family or with your friends.”

Image: The cover of a 1933 cookbook, Crisco Recipes for the Jewish Housewife, produced by Crisco’s parent company Procter and Gamble, to promote the vegetable-based oil to the new wave of Jewish immigrants. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.