I’m from the South and us Southerners take our butter fairly seriously. We like it in copious amounts on just about anything from cornbread to bullet holes because, like a bag of free money, it can make even the worst situation a bit
Growing up in a farmhouse that was built in 1874, it’s understandable that we had a lot of antiques lying around. Also, the fact that it was a farmhouse also denotes that it was on a farm and thus in the middle of nowhere. This close
proximity to absolutely nothing left a lot to be desired in the ways of playmates, so I usually stuck to entertaining myself with whatever I could find. One of the antiques I liked to play with was our spinning wheel. I broke that fairly quickly, thus taking
THAT piece of antique machinery out of my toy rotation. I sulked for a bit but then turned my adoration on to another piece of now-archaic equipment: our family’s butter churn.
At this butter churn I was happily engrossed in my “I’m totally Laura Ingalls rockin’ it out on the prairie” fantasies for hours and since it was way less fragile than the spinning wheel, I was occupied, our furniture was basically unscathed, and my mom was
happy on all counts. I would eventually lose interest in pretending I was living in a little house on the prairie and would move on to pretending I was Nancy Drew, but that didn’t change how I felt about butter and the glorious effect it brought to my life.
Let me explain:
Growing up, our house was usually filled with the smell of sourdough bread. My mom was constantly feeding her sourdough starter, kneading dough, or simply permeating my nostrils with the smell of a loaf of awesome about to come out of the oven. Her trick
to achieving a soft crust was to brush the freshly baked bread with melted butter as soon as it came out of the oven. Be it her garlic herb bread, her cheese bread, or just her sourdough rolls, this addition allowed the buttery goodness to seep into the bread
just after its completion and kept her customers clamoring for more.
Sunday mornings were reserved for blueberry muffins, made with the blueberries we grew and preserved in the summer (if they were in season, it wasn’t unheard of for my dad to run out in the field to grab a cup of berries as my mom made up the muffin batter.
He would usually arrive a bit disgruntled, berries in hand and feet wet from dew. By the time he took his first bite of muffin, however, the disgruntlement had usually been reversed.) Muffins are always better with butter, but the inherent problem with muffins
is that you either have to cut the muffin and place the butter inside, or put a pat on top and have it slide off on to your plate. Cue a bowl of melted butter and me, an obvious butter connoisseur, dipping the bottom of my muffin in the liquid gold, eating
the muffin upside down, and turning the world of muffin consumption, quite literally, on its head.
My final memory of growing up and loving butter lays in those hot summer Tennessee days when our garden was in full-scale production. Days brought hours of sweating outside, battling bugs and weeds for hard-earned green beans, and
nights brought plates of homegrown veggies for dinner (probably before you sat down in front of an episode of The Rockford Files while breaking up the green beans you so valiantly fought for that day.) Corn on the cob was (and is) a particular favorite of
mine, as there is nothing much better (other than the above-referenced bag of money) than fresh corn on the cob dripping with melted butter. Toss on some salt and pepper, and you’ve got a family of corn-eaters going to town on an ear of Silver Queen in ravenous,
Butter takes me back to the days when all I had to worry about was picking my strawberry quota for the day. When, after a day in the field, I could look forward to a supper of fried okra, fresh, ripe tomatoes, and squash casserole. There were no cars breaking
down, no deadlines to meet at work, and fewer worries. It represents simplicity, a time of freedom, and a sense of home. And really, aren’t those the most important things anyway?