Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My favorite condiment


When I lived in Japan, I learned this fun fact: when Westerners first came to Japan, they were called "butter-stinkers" because to a Japanese person who had not eaten much (any?) dairy, these people smelled bad.

That said, my Japanese friends were mighty fond of a good French pastry soaked in butter. We used to go to a big, crowded French cafe on Omotesando for croissants and coffee. Sigh. I now live 60 miles from a good croissant.

As I developed into a greater food snob, I came to understand that not all butter is created equal.

My best education on butter was an article by Jeffrey Steingarten originally published in Vogue (July 2002) and later published in Best Food Writing 2003. I learned about how to make good, homemade butter, explored the chemistry behind rancidity, discovered the difference between cultured and uncultured butters and was told who makes the best artisan butters.

Sally Fallon is a great fan of butter and reminds us that it is an important (and natural) vehicle for fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, lecithin and trace minerals.

As a result, I now upgrade my butter when I can (for both taste and health), and I buy unsalted butter for an unadulterated taste. (A pat of salted butter contains about 41mg of salt, whereas a pat of sweet butter contains less than 1 mg.)

And I discover that I am not alone in my love affair with butter. Cook Sister! describes a butter and salt tasting, and Accidental Hedonist answers all kinds of questions about the fat divine.


John said...

If you want to see butter taken to excess, check out these butter burgers (kind of sickening)

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, John. Quite graphic. Enjoyed browsing the rest of Serious Eats also.

Mom said...

I've tried (for years) to convince your father that butter is his enemy. He has never bought into that premise. You are your father's child.

Elizabeth said...

Uh-oh, Mom. Might you be a "Diet Dictocrat"?

Sally Fallon's chapter on fats has some pretty convincing pro-animal-fat arguments. Here's one:

"Before 1920 coronary heart disease was rare in America . . .Today heart disease causes at leasy 40 perscent of all US deaths. If, as we are told, heart disease is caused by consumption of saturated fats, one would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the Amercian diet. Actually, the reverse is true . . . from 1910 to 1970 . . . butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four. During the past eighty years, dietary cholesterol intake has increased only 1 percent. During the same period of time the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening and refined oils [transfats] increased about 400 percent. . . (Nourishing Traditions, p. 5).

Stephanie said...

Did I ever mention I'm lactose intolerant? It explains a lot. :)

Elizabeth said...

John--just watched the entire clip of

at work on high speed--not only is it a wonderful (if greasy) testimony to butter, it's rather sweet at the end! Makes me nostalgic for my midwestern roots. Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth said...

Elizabeth said...

Huh. Can't get the hyperlink to work--but see John's initial comment above to get there if itreested in butter burgers.