“Life isn’t life without real butter.”
– A.D. Posey
Real butter: that creamy, delectable substance found in kitchens across the world, which plays a significant role in the lives of everyone who eats.
Yet, butter isn’t only a pleasure to eat. Butter is a vital ingredient to good food and a good life. Without hesitation, chefs in any setting willingly express the importance of butter in the culinary arts.
Have you ever asked the question “What is butter?” If so, you might be the first. Not many people inquire about butter due to its common place in society. Nor has butter been known to start a conversation, raise philosophical contemplation, or encourage extensive research.
Yet, daily, pounds of butter influence cooking and baking craftsmanship, palatable flavoring, and aesthetic pleasure at the dining table. From spreading on hot bread to tenderizing the crumb of a cake, butter works nonstop in its culinary realm.
Ironically, in asking this simple question “What is butter?”, you will find in its answer the beauty and significance of this overlooked and unassuming product.
Basically, butter is the concentrated milk fat that forms this smooth and delicate milk product. By churning the creamier portion of whole milk, a fatty substance forms from separating the butterfat from its buttermilk. When the separation transpires, skim milk and buttermilk remain, which are then used and sold as their own dairy products. So, in reality, butter only consists of three things: butterfat, milk proteins, and water. So simple, and yet so amazing.
We, as human beings, crave butter. We use it in everything we cook and with everything we consume mainly because of its flavor and versatile nature.
The butter, which is so loved and heavily devoured, is most commonly made from cow milk. However, if you wish to take a stroll on the wild side, butter options using the creamy milk of sheep, goats, buffalo, yaks, or other milk-producing animals are available. Mixing in salt and seasonings to the butters additionally increases the flavor to stand alone or to pair better with other ingredients. Generally, we choose between salted and unsalted butter. For my palette specifically, salted butter is the answer to every question and every food.
Fatty flavor is another reason butter is so popular and highly consumed. Our human minds and bodies understand the four basic tastes:
Recently, analysts have come to understand that our human senses can also detect a highly addictive and equally enjoyable taste:
Butter’s Global Influence
Ultimately, butter has shaped the historical and modern culinary and cultural aspects of the world. And yet, butter is still an underappreciated staple in millions of kitchens worldwide. Despite so many different types of butter and uses for butter spanning the centuries, many people have no idea how butter has successfully endured time and influenced our very eating habits.
Thousands of years ago, butter found its creation by accident. As the legend goes, on a hot day, a man on horseback was transporting fresh milk in a bag. The constant motion of the horse’s natural gait along with the temperature resulted in something the world had never before seen: butter.
Accident or not, butter remains a global and historical staple ingredient:
The word butter originated from the Greek term bou-tyron, meaning “cow-cheese.”
Romans used butter as a lotion to hydrate skin.
In Asia, oil lamps were trimmed with butter because of its fat content and burnability.
In the same region, this symbol of fertility was often presented as a gift to newlywed couples.
In fact, to this day in Asia, it is common to add butter to coffee or tea to act as a creamer.
In the colder climate of northern European countries, butter kept solid, making it ideal for use in cuisine.
At one point in history, butter became so high in demand that some cultures used butter as currency.
In Ireland, butter could be traded for other goods in a building known as the Butter Exchange. Presently, this same building serves as a butter museum.
While the uses for butter have varied from place to place and throughout the years, butter has remained an integral part of history and has impacted many cultures and cuisines. Almost every continent has adapted the substance for differences uses. Since the demand for butter never decreases, it allows this versatile ingredient to spark new ideas in chefs around the globe.
The Shape of Butter
However, one country has led in the consumption of butter since its first introduction. Citizens of The United States of America can proudly stand and declare, “We love butter!” Of course, I invite all people to do so with pride and joy.
In the 1800s, the average American ate a stick and a half of butter per week. You may probably laugh and consider how bad those numbers sound. As long as butter is used in moderation, this natural fat is good for individuals to consume. In our time of more health- and nutrition-conscientious diets, the current average American eats about a third of a stick of butter per week. Not quite as indulgent as a stick and a half, but I’ll accept it.
“There is little in life that could not benefit from a little love, a little time, and a stick of butter.”
– Julia Child
Butter is so simple, and yet so important.
I hope that a glimpse into the history, influence, and creation of butter brings a new-found appreciation for the outstanding beauty that is butter. This one ingredient has affected and continues to affect the lives of so many people. Although butter performs many tasks around the world, it proves most imperative to consumption and happiness. Butter is and will always be important to the human population because, after all, life wouldn’t be life without butter.
Brontë E. Mock
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