By Carol Shaw
Do you recall when you were a youngster, finding a buttercup in a field or along a roadside, or one that had crept into a garden, and using it to see if your friend liked butter? I do. If you held the flower at just the right angle, and in a sunny spot, the yellow of the petals would give a yellow glow under the chin in question, proving that the friend liked butter.
I never needed a flower to assure me that I liked butter. I loved butter – and still do.
There was a bakery on Queen Street East in Toronto where my family bought freshly-baked white bread. On occasion, the bread was still warm when it arrived home. Nothing tasted better than a slice of that bread with a generous lashing of butter. Nothing else – no jam, no honey, just butter.
It seems I’m not alone in my appreciation of butter. But there was a time when butter was hard to buy due to wartime shortages. Remember the plastic bags of margarine, about the size of a plastic one-litre milk bag? The margarine was white, and in the bag was an orange tablet about the size of a Smartie. The objective was to squeeze the bag over and over again until the tablet released its colour and turned the whole mess yellow. You were then expected to use this concoction to substitute for the butter you really wanted. Not only did the margarine not taste like butter, it even smelled odd.
A.A. Milne, author of the beloved Winnie the Pooh stories, also wrote poems for children (and for the adults who loved reading them). One speaks about the King wishing for some butter to put on his bread at breakfast. However, the cow responsible for creating the butter isn’t in the mood to accommodate the king. The dairy maid returns to the King to say that “marmalade is nicer if it’s very thickly spread.” The King will have none of it saying, “Bother”, and decides to go back to bed.
In the end, the cow relents and sends not only butter but also milk to the King. On seeing that he now had butter, the King bounced out of bed, slid down the banisters and delightedly said to the Queen:
Could call me
A fussy man –
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!”
I’m with the King!
Of course, butter isn’t only for putting on bread. Imagine a lobster dinner with no melted butter. Or shortbread cookies made without butter. Or buttercream icing without butter. There are hundreds of recipes that call for butter, for good reason. The dish will taste better.
When you have a particularly tender piece of meat you might say “it’s like cutting butter” when you easily slice it. When you are trying to get on the good side of someone, you might try buttering the person up. Something might be referred to as being as soft as butter, and this might be how a piece of soft leather feels. If you decide to paint a room, you might choose butter yellow as the colour to make the room cheery. What is more beautiful than a butterfly?
I’m happy to see that even nutritionists are allowing that butter isn’t as bad for us as it used to be labelled. Our diets need some fats. Why not make it butter?