“Could they make do with cheaper substitutes, like margarine? Don’t even think about it.”

30 Oct

butter

Now, unlike Confederate statues, or the children in Barcelona playing Risk, this is a real tragedy unfolding.  Butter shortages in France: France, Land of Croissants, Finds Butter Vanishing From Shelves“:

Could they make do with cheaper substitutes, like margarine? Don’t even think about it.

“There’s no comparison,” Mr. Labbé said. “If you want to preserve the quality of our products, you have to use butter — you can’t do anything else.”

Much of the attention over the shortages has focused on France’s butter bastion: Brittany, famous for its crepes and salted-butter caramel. A satirical short film released earlier this month by a collective of local artists imagined, almost presciently, what would happen if the butter ran out.

“Pénurie,” French for shortage, is a mock film about butter scarcity in Brittany. Video by La Mauvaise Graine

Most gratifying is that more and more people are understanding that butter — and fat generally — is not unhealthy:

Meanwhile, as butter has shed some of its unhealthy image, demand has risen worldwide, especially in the United States — where the fast-food chain McDonald’s promised to put butter back in its recipes last year — and in China.

Kind of surreal we’d be thanking McDonald’s for its ingredient choices; my kudos will only come when it starts making its fries in beef fat again, like it used to.

I’m engaged in a little mini-culture-war with many people here.  Most neurotic American malakies come here with a significant delay, and I’m running around saying repeatedly: “Americans, who taught you that butter is bad, are now past that stage; get over it quicker.” Hard going, especially when the supposed “Mediterranean diet”, one of those clichéd distortions of a culture by the West that then gets sold back to that culture, has everyone convinced that Greeks never cooked any-thing with butter.  “Ladera,” (λαδερά) or what Turks call zeytinyağlı dishes, comes from “zeytin” — olive — and “yağ” — fat or butter.  They refer to the essentially vegan dishes that are prepared with only olive oil; for Greeks the term has a religious connotation too, as these were foods appropriate for Lent and fast days; dunno if the Turkish categorization of such dishes into their own genre is a Christian-to-Muslim crossover.  It also means dishes that you can serve cold or at room temperature.  (To add to the general confusion, Turks are coming around to olive oil again, after decades of cooking with disgusting sunflower seed oil, which always reminds me of poor folks’ Soviet food.  Even Turks I know with sophisticated palates used to tell me that an eggplant dish like, say, imambayıldı, would be too “heavy” if it were cooked with real olive oil.)  They all were, are and should be made with only olive oil.

But every-thing else was cooked with butter.  (And not the hellish slop, Fytine…)  All stewed-meat type dishes and of course, börek and yufka-baked pastries.  (The only reason phyllo-based pastries in Greece are all so awful when compared to Turkey is that Greeks — at least commercial bakeries — make them with margarine!)  Everyone I say this to looks at me like I can’t be serious; actually scary how a public relations campaign re-packages your culture and gives it back to you, erasing your own memories.  But once again, the French come to the defense of real civilization on the things that matter.

Below, a gâteau breton, basically a couple of pounds of butter held together with some flour.  It’s richness is often overpowering, but when you cut into it your whole house smells delicious.gateu bretongateau breton slice

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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