“Banning trans fat would ‘annihilate the legacy of every family bakery,'” or so says a baker from Philadelphia, PA, in response to a local city council bill that would prohibit the use of trans fats in commercial kitchens. As it first happened in New York when the city opted to ban trans fats, the public outcry was not unexpected, nor was the argument that small, family-owned businesses would be the ones to suffer for it. But this article is one of the rare ones that deals directly with bakeries, and perhaps the only that looks at how long some of these recipes – with trans fat included – have been around.
Trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, were first developed around the turn of the 20th century and were made available to the public in 1911, as Crisco. This does support the claim that the recipes in question have been around for generations, but because the concern over trans fats is health based, the tradition of long-standing recipes alone is not enough to make their position supportable. And while the claim that “[the baked goods] just don’t have the same flavor” without trans fats in them may carry weight – especially when the recipe in question is a pound cake, which should be expected to contain large, flavorful quantities of butter and not partially hydrogenated shortening – it also is not necessarily a reason to permit the use of trans fats. Although they may not taste the same, that claim certainly does not imply that a butter cake, or even one made with zero trans fat Crisco, will taste worse than one made with trans fats; it will most likely taste better.
When you think of a “family bakery” with a multi-generation tradition of high quality baked goods, do you expect that you are buying baked goods made with quality ingredients, natural ingredients? Or do you expect that a pound cake will be made with (hydrogenated) shortening and preservatives?