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Clarifying Butter

Food History Exhibit (Spring 2023)

Clarifying Butter: A Cultural History of Fat
April 2023 - December 2023


The very word, fat, conjures images of unctuous oils, crispy fried foods, and flavorsome pools of golden richness (indeed, medieval European foods that were described as “rich” meant both fatty and foods of the privileged). Conversely, the idea of fat can also make people frown with scorn, concerned over blocked arteries or a perceived moral laxity of a diner.  

Fat, as an substance found in animals, and oil, as a plant-based ingredient, appear across time and place, and reveal cultural attitudes and historical changes. At a culinary school, we use fats and oils daily, and as eaters, they literally become part of us. While ubiquitous they are never without deep meaning. This exhibit explores but some of the aspects of a food group that is simultaneously present and polarizing.  

This exhibit was researched and curated by the CIA Spring 2023 Food History class as part of the Applied Food Studies program. The class was taught by Dr. Beth Forrest in collaboration with archivist Nicole Semenchuk. Special thanks to Donald and Barbara Tober and all of the patrons that made this exhibit possible.

Image designed by Yukun (Mia) Liu

The Donald and Barbara Tober Exhibit Room is on the main floor of the Conrad N. Hilton Library. The exhibit room is open to the CIA community and to the public.  :: view campus map ::

The Culinary Institute of America | Conrad N. Hilton Library | 1946 Campus Drive | Hyde Park, NY 12538-1430
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