Well, I did it! I wrote every day from early October to New Year's Day 2010. Now I will write for fun when I feel like it and see where that gets me. Cheers to all my small-blessing-appreciating friends!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


OK, I have been putting off writing about butter because it seems rather self-indulgent. But butter is another of those foods that makes me happy. Just think of the lovely foods it goes into - from cookies to a plate of spaghetti with browned butter and mizithra cheese, not to mention toast.

My mother remembered when margerine was sold as an unappetizing white, crisco-like blob along with a package of dye to make it yellow. For decades we were indoctrinated to believe that hydrogenated corn oil was much more healthy than butter. My arteries and I resent that deceit.

I have made butter. It isn't difficult. Just beat some cream past the whipped-cream stage and suddenly it separates into curd-like blebs of butter and thin buttermilk. Strain out the butter and knead it together - voila! It appears you can make butter from any kind of milk - it would be interesting to try sheep or goat butter, or perhaps even yak butter. More flavorful and aromatic butter is made from slightly fermented cream, and is called cultured butter. The natural color and flavor also depends on the diet of the cow (or other creature).

Have you ever wondered why Mediterranean cuisine doesn't use butter much or why only clarified butter is used in India? It is because unclarified butter spoils quite quickly without refrigeration. Ghee doesn't. In more northern climates, the cooler temperatures allow butter to be kept longer. In fact, in medieval Ireland, firkins of butter were buried in peat bogs and kept for years. The flavor must have been interesting. Archaeologists still find these barrels in bog excavations - they contain greyish cheesy stuff, no longer edible.

Where would we be without the exquisite sauces of France and the shortbread of Scotland and lemon-curd and thousands of other delectable butter-requiring foods?  Our celebratory tables would be sadly lacking.

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