It turns out that bacon fat is good for more than sprucing up bitter greens—it’s also pretty good for making bombs. And during World War II, handing over cooking fat to the government was doing your patriotic duty.
The American Fat Salvage Committee was created to urge housewives to save all the excess fat rendered from cooking and donate it to the army to produce explosives. As explained to Minnie Mouse and Pluto in one wartime video, fats are used to make glycerin, and glycerin is used to make things blow up.
One pound of fat supposedly contained enough glycerin to make about a pound of explosives. Patriotism aside, many American housewives were not enticed. Only about half donated their excess cooking fats. Saturated fats were of little health concern at the time and cooking grease was hard to come by, especially once rations were imposed. But moreover, many distrusted government-dictated food programs which also threatened what became a defining feature of the American way of life: being well-fed.
In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt reaffirmed America’s dedication to protecting four essential freedoms: freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Eleven months later Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered the war. Americans were anxious about said entrance for innumerable reasons, among them forfeiting a full-bellied way of life, which had only recently been restored following the Great Depression. Roosevelt's last two freedoms were threatened. Food rationing loomed. Salvage programs to supply the military with scrap metal, rubber, wastepaper, and rags enlisted families to play their patriotic part. Then the government turned to fat.