January 05th, 2023
It's a very basic thing, butter. It's been around for the past 8,000 or so years. And for a change, that is not an exaggeration. There is credible evidence of butter in Ancient Africa that long ago. Wow!
And it really is such a simple, again basic, thing. Just cream and salt. That's all it is, when it's done correctly. Pure and quite honestly, very natural.
For a long time, reports have gone back and forth on the relative healthiness of butter, as opposed to a butter substitute such as margarine or the "Smart Balance" sort of thing. But I will tell you, as a veteran cook/baker of many years, and there are a zillion or so chefs who will back me up on this, as far as flavour goes, there really is no true substitute for real honest butter.
When a recipe calls for butter, that is what I use. I grew up with mostly margarine so I do know, first hand, the difference. And since I use butter, not only in baking but also in cooking and in every day use (buttered toast anyone?), butter is an item on nearly every grocery list that I write.
Which is why I was fairly outraged to learn, a few weeks ago, that butter, one single box of 4 sticks of butter, suddenly cost $6.00. Six dollars for a box of butter? I stood there with the box in my hands with my mouth agape, eye wide, wondering when cows suddenly became an endangered species. And then I put it back down and walked away.
This was a very ordinary sort of butter. Just made of cream and salt. Nothing special about it. It was not some fancy imported butter. I was not the butter made from the milk of dragon's or something like that. Just regular ordinary normal butter that originated in a cow.
Six dollars! And since each box holds 4 sticks of butter, that means $1.50 per stick. And since a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies requires a full cup of butter, which is 2 sticks worth, suddenly just the butter component of the recipe is three bucks. Just the butter! This will severely impact my baking days, which at least used to be, every Friday.
I was very understanding of the shortages and just plain missing items on the grocery store shelves during the Pandemic. For two full years, I was very patient and pleasant and tried to just get really creative. When meal preparations required Item A, I either figured out a way to make it work with either Item B or without that item at all.
In this past post-pandemic year when there have still been big empty spots on the grocery store shelves now and again or limits on items, I have continued to be uncomplaining and forbearing. I even urged others who were very angry to stay calm and offered up alternate ideas.
As prices have gone up and up and up, I have trimmed my grocery lists and shopped accordingly and made better and better use of leftovers. As, I assume, most people have! I mean we all have budgets right? I grew up 'making do' and I am very good at it. I know how to do without and how to make tough decisions. Nowadays when we shop I always ask myself, 'Do we realllly need that?" and "Will something else do just as well?" before selecting each item. I watch the sales, use the coupons and plan meals accordingly.
But now they have gone too far. Now they are messing with my baking day. They have crossed my line.
Quite honestly, I am not absolutely certain what, if anything, I can do about it other than find another butter resource. My friend Marsha suggested Costco. Great Idea. Sometimes great deals can be found at Costco. Of course that means buying in much greater amounts than usual, but butter freezes nicely. I will have to do the math (dang it) the next time we are there to see if it really is a better deal. Usually Costco does have a better price, but not always.
I will check out other brands of butter but first I will have to read their ingredients list. I refuse to buy any butter than has more than two ingredients. As I stated before that should read; cream and salt. Period. Nothing else.
The one thing I will not do is use a butter substitute. It doesn't feel the same, it doesn't taste the same, it doesn't smell the same. It's the way I feel about substitute sugar. I know there are people who swear by it and love it and rave about it. I am not any of those people. It does not taste the same (even within a baked good) to me. And I do not care for the taste. At all. Same thing with butter.
That doesn't mean that I am right and they are wrong. Nope. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that I do not care for it and, therefore, will not use it. Everyone else is, naturally, free to do whatever feels right to them and I will never EVER criticize them for it.
As I understand it, the price of butter has increased, yet again, since I last shopped. Does anyone know why? My father's people were all farmers. I know how hard they work. But I suspect that farmers are not the ones making big bucks from the price increases. I'm pretty sure that the truck drivers who get the cream from the farmers and take it to the factories are also not rolling in dough. Nor are the factory workers or the other truck drivers who ship it to the stores. The people working in the the stores aren't driving to work in Maserati's (at least most of them aren't). Sooooooo where is all this extra price increase money going?
Have a cookie, if you can afford it.
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Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.