I was making a batch of cookies the other day and a dab of whipped butter jumped out of the mixing bowl. Without much thought, I swooped it up with my index finger and plopped it in my mouth. But with no sugar, flour or vanilla, the butter took on the consistency and flavor of… butter. I found the sensation not pleasant. The nearest description that defines the moment is accidentally stepping into a curb or cold rainwater. It’s an odd sinking feeling that may ruin the rest of your day.
Why is that? Butter is the best of companions. It’s a perfect mate for toast and warm cinnamon rolls. A little swirl makes mash potatoes fantastic. Would popcorn exist without it? And to add butter with sugar and flour creates—in my opinion—the greatest food known: shortbread. So why does it become unpalatable the second it decides to go solo? Why is butter like the friend who is the life of the party, but if you talk to him in one-on-one, he can only tell you how miserable he is and asks to borrower a thousand dollars?
I can never think of a time when I stood in front of an open fridge and thought a stick of butter would make a great snack. And yet, when I need a pat for pancakes, I know one will never be enough. Why do we love butter, but it’s conditional: “Yeah butter, you can come over for breakfast. Say, is your friend, waffle around? Hey, we haven’t seen French toast in a while. I wonder what she’s up to.”
Why can’t butter be like other dairy products? With milk, cheese and cream, you have players who work in teams or go solo. Come to think of it, I don’t think butter would make a great compliment to other dairy products. You are not going to pour melted butter over ice cream or spread it across a slice of Havarti. And to leave on a sour note here are two words that should never be combined: buttermilk.
Photo courtesy of Paul.