Butter, it's the only thing my best friend and me disagree on: she hates it. I love its cool, creamy paleness and culinary versatility. And this is my very favourite sort:
The wrapper alone would sell it to me, did the first time I bought it, but there is something very special about this butter. Too expensive for daily use, I have it only as a rare treat* it makes pastry taste the way it used to, transforms plain cakes (oh the seed cake!), and if there's any left over:
it's worth making jam to go with it on toast.
But the best thing about it is just unwrapping it and sniffing takes me back to the time I first really noticed butter.
I was about fifteen and had been invited to a new friend's house after school. Her mother greeted us and into the kitchen we went. Through a hall twice the length and not far off as wide as our whole house, past semi open doors through which I glimpsed chintzy couches, tables groaning with books, and musical instruments. I'd never been in a house like it, huge and rather seedy, you could imagine Jane Eyre in it.
Anita's mother put the kettle on, some teacakes in the toaster and sent her off to the corner shop for butter: 'Ask for fresh.' She insisted. I hung about on the edge of the kitchen, shyly, and watched as this filmic woman (she was wearing jewelry, eye-liner, and a caftan! (my mother wore slacks)) placed pretty china on a tray:
'Could you put these on the table in the dining room, please Eryl?' Her pink painted lips asked.
When Anita returned we sat at the table. She poured the tea:
'Milk and sugar?'
'Just milk, please.'
Her mother buttered the hot teacakes, and passed them around. One bite and I was lost. The taste was better than anything I'd ever eaten, new yet strangely familiar. Salty and creamy it was the equivalent of a long soak in a warm bath for the palate. As I walked home later I remembered that before my father died my mother baked bread for weekend breakfasts which we ate with strawberry jam. Between the bread and the jam we spread real butter. I remembered, too, rolling small lumps of it in the sugar bowl, while no one was looking, and crunching. Those days were long gone. Now we could only afford margarine with its odd flaky texture and face-cream taste.
In the days that followed I raved about the butter so much that my mother baked a loaf and bought a packet to go with. We all sat in the kitchen and stuffed ourselves. Later my brother told me when he grows up he'll have butter everyday, and I told him I would too.
And while I probably don't, I do use it a lot: in cakes, pastries, certain types of icing (frosting for you Americans), egg dishes, mashed potato, and goodness know what all else. Here's a selection of my recent buttery doings:
Fuel, with crackers, cheese and pickle, for when work goes on late into the night.
A chicken for roasting: thyme, onions, half a lemon (up its bottom), white wine and a good application of butter.
Cayenne pepper, dark muscovado sugar, chopped rosemary, sea-salt and melted butter, for spicing up some lightly toasted nuts.
A rather large tattie scone, made with tonight's leftover mashed potato, cooks in a butter smeared pan.
All through the health scares when oil derived spreads were fashionable I held out and stuck to butter. So I'm rather glad to hear it's been found far healthier than those nasty augmented substitutes. Goodness knows what they do to make olive oil solid!
*at all other times I use a french brand I can get locally
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