Well, first things first. We didn't have butter growing up. We had margarine. Sticks & tubs. Now to be honest, I didn't know there was a difference back then and I was perfectly fine with it. We'd fight
over who got the "hat" (the little swirly part) in a new tub for our cornbread. It was fine for toast & grilled cheese. We just didn't know any better. That's what Mom used, that's what Nanny & Mamaw used. I assume it was a cost issue. We definitely didn't
have much money and I know they were all very frugal.
So when I was asked to blog about my memories involving butter - my initial memory was the time we'd run out of peanut butter so my older sister decided to make her own. Yes, you guessed it. Take one stick
of butter (ok, margarine) and shove as many of Dad's roasted peanuts in it as you can - using your fingers, of course. Quelle Surprise! Didn't turn out quite like the crunchy Peter Pan peanut butter we were used to. Looked about as nasty as it tasted too.
For this particular usage, I'm sure Mom was pleased with the fact that it had, indeed, been margarine.
Eventually I started thinking about when I began to make the margarine-to-butter switch. And it hit me. In the summer of 1993 I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. As part of the
program, we were to do a 6-month internship abroad in our language-designated country. So this southern girl who'd never been out of the U.S. was off to Germany.
I got an internship with Bosch in the tiny town of Murrhardt, and as it happened another fellow student did too. I didn't know him very well; we'd had no classes together. I really only knew him because
I'd dated his roommate earlier in the year. Even so, we discussed it and decided that in order to save costs, it would be a good idea to look for a place where we could live together. Also Kurt (this new roommate) had been in the military and lived in Germany
before - and his German was excellent (mine, not so much). We each contacted the company separately asking for help finding housing (a two-bedroom, if possible) and that we would like to live together to share expenses. They found us a great place only 3 miles
from the factory. We were to travel to Murrhardt and meet our new landlord, Frau Strohmaier, at the train station. And away we went!
She wasn't hard to find. We may have been the only people getting off the train at Murrhardt, and she was definitely the only woman waiting for visitors. Frau Strohmaier looked just like Aunt Bea (from the
Andy Griffith show) but wearing those crazy German shoes! I later learned she was keen to heft those giant beer mugs too (quite unlike Aunt Bea).
She took us by the grocery for before we even went to check out the apartment. Thus began my education in European grocery shopping. None of the products were what I was used to. At home I’d pretty much
had the standard mass-produced sliced white bread, cornbread & biscuits – probably several others in restaurants – none of that was to be found. SO many amazing fresh-baked loaves and rolls, we had no idea which ones to choose. The same was true of cheeses,
sausages and beer. But you know what they did have? Butter. Real, True, Sweet-cream Butter. And that’s when I learned to the truth about butter.
I’d never wanted to just spread butter on bread and eat it as a snack (except in a restaurant, of course). But with those hearty breads, all the new cheeses, I began smearing butter in places I’d never considered
– on a roll with salami? Oh yeah! You betcha! Once I discovered that, I wanted a salami brötchen every single morning – and most days I had one (or more, if I’m honest).
Over those six months, I learned a lot about living in a new place. I learned to adapt to their way of life. I learned to celebrate the similarities as well as differences among people’s needs & likes. I
learned how to properly pour a good Weiss Bier. Eventually I even learned to speak pretty good German too. And oh yes, I learned to truly appreciate of butter. Whether slathered on a roll with salami, sautéing garlic and onion on the stove, or melting in a
big slice of Mom’s cornbread – It’s delicious and has no equal in margarine. Now that’s not to say margarine is bad or even that I don’t still buy & use margarine. It’s still perfectly fine for some things and the lower fat/cholesterol options are nice when
considering your health. However, when you’re Not considering your health – and you’re going strictly for taste and creamy deliciousness – the choice is clear. And it’s Butter all the way.
Oh, and if you're curious about the genius "peanut butter" maker - she later earned a degree in Chemistry and PharmD - and to this day,she still can't figure out why that peanut butter didn't work.