"White Art" -- 1944 pamphlet shows how to make sculptures from bacon fat

200805291929.jpg John Ptak says: "In the world of found book objects, few I think are as deeply removed and as deeply obscure as the work by Otto F. Fleiss called White Art in the Meat Food Business. A Practical Handbook for Butcher, Pork Stores, Restaurants, Hotels and Delicatessens on How to Make Lasting and Transferable White Art Decorations out of Bacon Fat Back for Window Displays, Ornaments on Meat Food Cold Buffets and for Exhibits and Advertising Purposes." Link


  1. Around 1990 at the Royal Melbourne Show (Americans: think “State Fair”) I noticed that the crafts sections had a classification for “Best Lard or Margarine Sculpture” – a classification which has sadly dissapeared in recent times. All of the great skills of the past are being lost…

    The very existence of a margarine category probably shows the age of it – I think all modern margarines have been manipulated so far in the direction of “spreadability” that you’d be hard pressed to sculpt a decent equestrian victory scene out of them.

    What’s the link between Bonnie Tyler and Black Flag?

  2. Sculpting tallow isn’t that odd of a practice. Or, more accurately, it wasn’t; it used to be common in culinary arts classes. I know someone who won an award for it, actually.

  3. One summer, checking the new-books shelf, I found a book on snow sculpture and ice sculpture.

    In the Coral Gables (Florida) Public Library. Where the local patrons have very little opportunity to indulge in snow sculpture.

    I was so intrigued that I checked the book out and read the whole thing.

  4. Lard is really soft at 72 degrees. I think you’d have to have the whole sculpture in a refrigerated case to work on it and keep it solid.

  5. Despite our kneejerk reaction to the abhorrent idea of eating fat,pork fat in particular, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the problem with fat as it appears in our diet is its hydrogenation. For example; next time you’re in a grocery store, check out the contents of a bucket of lard. It’s hydrogenated to extend its shelflife, presumably. Early humans had no little problem with fat in their diets not only because they had less of it and worked harder but also because it wasn’t hydrogenated.
    Also, hogs and other animals which originally provided us with the bulk of the fat in our diets, did not feed on the feedlot diets of today and that too reflects in the amount of omega 3s and other beneficial fats in the animal’s tissues.
    I won’t be surprised if we one day discover that the problem with fat is more complex than just its quantity. Oh, and it does make beautiful sculpture on everything but my ass.

  6. The state fair held in my hometown has a butter sculpture every year. They use something like 900 lbs. of butter and it’s displayed in a huge windowed walk-in refrigerator. I could totally see them getting into a pig fat sculpture.

  7. I used to go to the National Restaurant Assn show in Chicago every year. My favorite part of the show was the culinary arts competition. There was a section that featured decorative arts with separate awards given for sculpture in chocolate, butter, ice and suet. The people involved in the competition were really talented artists.

  8. The Valhalla Inn in Toronto used to have one of these as the centrepiece of the Sunday brunch. I recall it sat on ice.

  9. While in culinary school (Baking and Pastry Arts), we used puff-pastry fat to sculpt with. It’s the most hydrogenated of all fats used in the bakeshop, and therefore highly stable at room (and hand) temperature – wonderful for sculpting. You have to pack it like a snowball to make it all stick together. It’s pretty disgusting. Also, we were bakers, not sculptors. You know what it looks like when third-grade art teachers tell the class to make things out of clay? We ended up with two classrooms full of those, only in glorious, white, plasticky fat. (I sculpted my Alessi floss dispenser, and actually did fairly well, if I may say so myself.)

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