One morning I had started off quite early, before the cafes were open and by 10am I was desperate for some caffeine.
My friends were having a look at the interior of the beautiful Paroisse Saint Paul Saint Louis and I had decided to go instead to a café in Rue Saint Paul, Le Petite Saint Paul, and wait for them.
Two aromatic cups of coffee later, there I was, asking “où sont les toilettes”?
On the way back, refreshed and calmed, I noticed an interesting vintage poster on the wall advertising “La Vegetaline”.
Designed by the Belle Epoque French Poster artist Eugene Oge in his usual playful and unique style, the poster had caricature like figures with exaggerated facial expressions and gestures.
This poster implores us to discover the delights of using La Vegetaline in our kitchen.
The rotund, portly Chef is being handed a tin of this remarkable new product by a dishevelled small dark skinned boy wearing only one shoe – together with the addition of a coconut tree, I immediately thought of early twentieth century child labour, perhaps in a copra plantation in French Polynesia.
Needless to say, the poster exhorts La Vegetaline’s virtues, being “more digestible, and more hygienic than butter”.
To my amazement I discovered La Vegetaline was a French version of Copha, the vegetable shortening made from hydrogenated coconut oil that Australians use to create our beloved Rocky Road and Chocolate Crackles.
While it appears that the real origin of vegetable shortening was probably India, the French started selling this product during the 30’s, a little later than Lever Brothers (Unilever) did in Melbourne (trademarked in 1916).
Needless to say, they clearly had a much more interesting marketing strategy than Lever Brothers!