From the 1770s to the 1880s agriculturists and cooks sought to develop culinary oils from plants. Thomas Jefferson's attempts to introduce the olive into the agriculture of the United States, as a partial substitute for lard in cookery and as a cheap oleo for the consumption of slaves, met with limited success, even in the southeast, because periodic freezes and high humidity thwarted the development of groves. Southern slaves from West Africa supplied their own oil, derived from benne (Sesamum indicum). Benne oil was merely one feature of an elaborate African-American cuisine employing sesame that included benne soup, benne and greens, benne and hominy, benne candy, and benne wafers. Only the last item has survived as a feature of regional and ethnic cookery. In the first decades of the nineteenth century, planter experimentalists began the commercial scale production of benne oil, establishing it as the primary salad oil and the second favored frying medium in the southern United States. It enjoyed acceptance and moderate commercial success until the refinement of cottonseed oil in the 1870s and 1880s. Cotton seed, a waste product of the south's most vital industry, was turned into a revenue stream as David Wesson and other scientists created a salad oil and frying medium designedly tasteless and odorless, and a cooking fat, hydrogenated cottonseed oil (Cottonlene or Crisco) that could cheaply substitute for lard in baking. With the recent recovery of regional foodways, both the olive and sesame are being revived for use in the neo-southern cookery of the twenty-first century.

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