I love butter. Always have. As a toddler Mom had a devil of a time keeping me off the kitchen table and my fingers out of the butter dish. I’m not sure I would go that far today, but I still love butter on just about anything that it can be slathered on or cooked in.
Really … what is popcorn without melted butter? Lobster and crab legs are an expensive and coveted delicacy, but I don’t think it would be the same without being able to slip it first into a little cup of golden, drawn butter before popping it into my mouth.
I don’t know how she managed it, but even though money was tight, Mom always made sure we had butter. Potatoes were a staple for nearly every meal in our Irish/Catholic home, and I think boiled or mashed potatoes without butter was considered a sin, right up there with eating meat on Friday.
I don’t think I ever tasted margarine until I left home after highschool in the mid-70s. Some say margarine is one molecule away from plastic, and back then the taste made that theory seem plausible to me. Today’s margarine is much more flavorful and new forms are constantly being tinkered with to lower your fat intake, scrape your arteries of cholesterol, and probably even get rid of the bags under your eyes. No matter, there’s still nothing that can replace real butter.
For a real treat, Mom would stop at Kennedy’s on Elm Street and pick up a pound of butter, chopped from the larger block and wrapped in snowy-white butcher paper. That was real butter. If not Kennedy’s, Land O’Lakes was the only butter to grace our table, and I carried that tradition to my own years later. No plastic tubs would fill the cupboards in my house.
What’s happened to butter over the years? I’m not so brand conscious today and will pick up whatever is on sale, but none of it tastes like the butter I remember risking Mom’s wrath for in my youth. I find myself adding more and more melted butter to a bowl of popcorn and still don’t get the smooth, buttery taste to justify the amount of fat I just crammed into my mouth. My morning tea with toast isn’t quite the same either.
Why doesn’t butter taste like butter anymore? Have cows evolved that much in the last few decades? Is it because we’re feeding them hormone-laden garbage instead of what God intended? Are bovines becoming stale from being locked into stanchions instead of grazing naturally? Do I have to go to California to get butter from a happy cow?
I wonder if Kennedy’s is still on Elm Street.