It’s yellow: pure gold at its best, made from the thick cream that comes from contented, grass-eating cows. Jersey, or maybe Guernsey. Sweet, rich, unspeakably wicked (in a good way).
But even if it’s as pale as winter sunlight, most likely it will be delicious. Salted or not, take your pick. Spread thickly over warm bread, it langorously melts into holes and crevices, oozing over the edges of the crust.
It’s butter, of course—and as Mark Bittman recently wrote, somewhere Julia Child, “goddess of fat,” is smiling.
The good news is that after reviewing 72 research studies, The Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that eating the luscious stuff –or almost any saturated fat—will not send you to an artery-clogged grave. (Make that probably not, since as usual, more investigation is needed.)
I picture a team of jolly research scientists, sitting around the lab eating buttery langues de chat by the pound and drifting off to slumberland until it’s time to test their triglycerides.
Actually, some of us never abandoned butter. Though B and I adore olive oil, especially the piqual from our friends in Spain, you just can’t bake without butter. So there’s always a pound or two in the fridge, in case it’s necessary to make emergency gingersnaps or a triple layer chocolate cake. I’ve been known to sneak a pat into a soup that needs “a little something”— Jeremiah Tower was hired to cook at Chez Panisse when he transformed a less than stellar soup merely by adding butter to the pot —and when Serendipity and Angus were little, I certainly buttered their morning toast (and ate the crusts after they’d left for school).
But now we can reach for butter without guilt. At the market I’m partial to Kerry Gold—after all, who could resist even commercial butter made by a cooperative of small Irish dairy farmers whose cows “dine on rich, fertile grass in rolling green pastures.” Did you know there was once a Cork Butter Exchange which tracked daily price fluctuations? Or that “firkins” (small barrels) of butter were preserved by being buried in “marshy bogs?”
Then there’s the quasi-homemade butter from a nearby dairy farm, which I also enjoy. It’s paler in color and the flavor is not as complex, but the stuff comes in a little tub which means you can dig out big chunks with a spoon and slap them on a plate to soften. This is far more satisfying than slicing pats off a rectangular stick.
One thing though: If you’re going to eat butter, you need really good bread—and that’s where the loaf from Chicken Bridge Bakery comes into the picture. Right away I fell for the stenciled Lone Star—yeah I’m a Texas girl—but it was the flavor and texture of the 100 percent seeded rye that really won my heart: dense, moist, chewy, very tangy, with caraway seeds embedded in the dark crumb that create little bursts of aromatic flavor when you chew them.
It’s the kind of filling, but invigorating hearth-baked bread you can imagine a Saxon king eating before going out to slaughter some Vikings.
Today it was especially fine, eaten warm from the oven, slathered with melting butter, as I gazed out the window, wondering what new (non-violent) adventures the day would bring.