The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Saturday, September 18, 2004

Floor it Mildred! 

Sometimes you read the paper, and you see an article that stuns you beyond belief. That's a law? Are you serious? JS Online has an interesting story this morning:

All Nels Harvey wanted was a good baked potato to go with his meat at the Ponderosa Steakhouse in Menomonee Falls. Like anyone else might, he ordered it with butter.

The chain restaurant not only didn't bring him what he asked for, it broke Wisconsin law.

"I received this baked potato and it was lathered with margarine," Harvey said of his dining experience last weekend. "I find margarine to be quite repulsive."

So he made the request that proved the restaurant's guilt.

"I told the girl that I wanted butter," said Harvey, a 71-year-old retired television engineer from Mequon. "She said, 'We don't have any butter.' "

A remnant of the decades-long tussle in Wisconsin known as the oleo wars, an obscure state law prohibits serving margarine instead of butter at a restaurant unless a customer specifically requests it.

Hold on... because it gets better. Not only is it a law to not serve butter in a restaurant in Wisconsin, it is still enforced:

Butter offenders typically receive a warning letter or a visit from a local inspector. This spring, a dairy farmer reported the Texas Roadhouse in Appleton for serving "herb butter" in place of the real thing. Gregory Pallaske, the state's chief of Food Safety and Environmental Licensing, fired off a letter demanding the company butter up.

There is no state "butter police," Pallaske assured, but officials promised to enforce existing laws.

One may ask why such a law exists. Apparently it dates back to the 1960's when margarine first came out. Wisconsin actually passed a law banning colored margarine. Back then in Wisconsin, you had to buy white margarine with a dye packet, and mix in the dye yourself. People used to actually drive to Illinois in order to buy pre-colored margarine, then drive back with it and split it among family and friends. Amazingly, they would actually have random checks coming over the border checking for illegal margarine. Of course, that law has since been repealed, but the restaurant butter law still is on the books.

Picture this if you will... housewives driving down across the border with margarine in the back seat, covered with blankets in an attempt to fool the police. Watch out Mildred - there's a cop behind us - floor it!

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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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