November 25, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
It’s the day after Thanksgiving for Americans who are celebrating. And many of us have been, for, at least, the last 24 hours, mainlining butter (thank God for statins.) We’ve mashed butter into potatoes and rolled it into pie crusts; we’ve slathered it on bread and sautéed onions in it; we’ve melted it into stuffing, rubbed it under the skin of turkey, whisked it into gravy, whipped it senseless into parsnips and used it, mixed with honey or sugar, to glaze carrots. If we live in LA, we’ve put a pat of it (grass fed, all organic) on top of our black coffee and felt super self- righteous and healthy about it.
Butter, this week, has been the glue holding our meals together; without it Thanksgiving would not be possible…or so it might seem.
And we’ve only just begun! There are more holidays to come that are also butter laden. By the time we all get to January 1st, we will want to become devout vegans (for a few weeks.)
All this butter butter everywhere made me think of two things: My younger son used to be so butter obsessed, you might find him, if you turned your back, eating butter straight from the dish while you went back and forth to the kitchen trying to serve dinner. He still likes it on toast and crackers and potatoes and rice. One of his favorite breakfasts is a “hot buttered egg on hot buttered toast.” (For this dish, in case you want to recreate it, the scrambled eggs and toast are incidental.) I also love butter. Butter and mayonnaise—I can eat both on potato chips or bread toute seule.
When we went to France last summer, my husband, who doesn’t like butter, went crazy about French butter. He ate it on toast. He ate it on crackers. He ate it with Roquefort on top, both pleasantly squished onto a piece of spongey baguette. We found that, not only was French butter much cheaper than the butter we buy here, but it tasted so much better—even the lowest level Président butter, was better butter. Why, I wanted to know?
It turns out that French butter has more fat—by as much as 2 to 10%–and that it has less water in it, too. Somehow in the churning and washing phase of butter making, American butter gets the short end of the fats stick and somehow we gain an extra 4% –or more– of water, making our butter less tasty. Also, French butter is made the same way as it was 100 years ago, with simple churning and resting processes to make sure it cultures, or ripens, and the flavors deepen. Most simplistically, the French take their butter so seriously that they are very careful about the quality of milk that is used to make butter, breeding cows that are the same as have been used forever and are from farm collectives that are, often, situated within twenty miles of butter factories. In France, some butter is so protected and revered, that it’s gotten its own appellation, like wine.
Ok, so all of this buttery thinking made me want to share this poem, by Elizabeth Alexander, whom you might remember as Barack Obama’s inaugural poet, back in those halcyon days of 2009:
My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sautéed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.
À cuisiner, regarder et lire çe weekend:
This weekend I am going to be making a turkey tetrazzini that requires lots of (you got it!) butter all over the noodles! And Bouffe author, Kate Christensen, wrote me in an email this morning to tell you all that you could use your left-over turkey bones to make a rich turkey broth in place of beef broth for your French onion soup this weekend (which also needs lots of butter!)
This way, we will slip and slide on a buttery track…all the way to January 1st, or 2nd, or whenever we get our acts together.
But first, I have lots of reading to suggest for the lazy weekend: Below, I’ve published three new articles today and republished two older pieces from Frenchly’s archives. These are some of my favorite writers writing for me; I hope you get a chance to enjoy their words this weekend.
I also suggest reading this moving piece in the Times about a woman and her 39-year-old horse, Rush. And this piece on the director, Sarah Polley, from the New Yorker, about her new movie, Women Talking with one of my favorite actresses in the world, Claire Foy. After reading it, I just love Sarah Polley. If you don’t have the time or energy for either of those, give yourself or a child you know a dose of nostalgia and fun by reading “The King’s Breakfast,” by A.A. Milne (yes, it’s a children’s poem about butter).
If you are looking for something more to watch after checking out Andrea’s Proustian suggestions, below, I suggest this Netflix Rockumentary about Johnny Halliday; Moonage Daydream, the newish documentary about David Bowie; Elton’s John’s Farewell from Dodger Stadium, or this wonderful sounding doc about the designer, Salvatore Ferragamo.
If you haven’t signed up for our webinar next week, where we go off the beaten path in France with 4 Frenchly writers and Alliance Française Pasadena, then please do—I’d love to meet you! And, make sure you cast your raffle into the pot to win a free trip to Paris next spring. Here are more details.
I will be back next week with more ideas for watching, cooking, reading and eating. Until then, rest, make stuff with leftovers (and send me your ideas, too!), take a walk and enjoy your butter.
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L’Amour et Le Chaton: A Thanksgiving Story
Atelier 11: An École de Paris for the 21st Century (It All Began with Soutine and Modigliani)