Wise Women Friday: Julia Child

and sometimes I take pictures of butter with b...Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Words of wisdom from Julia Child, who introduced Americans to the art of French cooking:

If you're afraid of butter, use cream.

Yes. I saw "Julie and Julia." Yes. Meryl Streep channels Ms. Child and makes her so darn appealing that it's hard not go home and whip up a pot of beef stew. But let's not talk about that. Let's talk about butter.

When I think of butter, I think of my father-in-law, Tom Finnegan. When he was dying of leukemia, I knew that the end was near because I found butter in his refrigerator. Tom had given up butter years earlier, a consequence of a week at a very regimented diet and fitness camp where people were encouraged to reject all things hinting of cholesterol. This was before the good versus bad cholesterol days; this was during the cholesterol equals Satan days. So when I saw the butter, I knew that Tom had thrown caution to the wind. If he was going to die, he was going to first relinquish the shackles of healthful self restraint and slather his final days in creamy, wonderful, artery-clogging indulgence.

What is it about butter? Cream it with sugar and it's an airy piece of heaven, just a handful of flour away from the promise of a birthday cake. Cook it with lemon juice and eggs yolks and it's higher fashion than a Prada bag. Spread it on a rustic loaf of bread and you've just connected yourself to the span of human history. Butter moves cooks to wax eloquent and gives comfort to the dying. But why is it so good? It's like a miracle. Inexplicable yet redemptive.
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Lynne said...

This was SO beautifully written! I am absolutely heading to the kitchen to bake today! Do you think the people afraid of butter invented the cream scones?

Desiree said...


altadenahiker said...

Wow, I can't believe it's just butter.

Margaret said...

Lynne: Thank you. Be sure to tell me what you make. As for the cream scones, I think one must be pretty fearless to make those too.

Dez: I'm sighing right back at you.

AH: You. Always so clever. I wish I could be like that.

pasadenaadjacent said...

Considering that "healthful restraint" has never been a virtue of mine, I never did bother to rid myself of butter. Although I frequently use oleo; it's a regular in crossword puzzles.

Refrigerator gunk be gone,
butter? never!

Linda Dove said...

Do I feel a butter poem coming on?

Lynne said...

Just made Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting. Total Butter: 5 1/4 sticks butter!

Gidyean said...

Yes, I just the movie last night!
Thought it would be this huge Chic Flick, but I ended liking it better than my girl friend who dragged me to see it. I thought Meryl was phenomenal and the Amy girl who played Julie was also great! If both Julia and her hubby lived to be 91, 92 respectively, maybe we need to re-think the butter curse!!

Susan C said...

Wise words indeed.

Jean Spitzer said...

I'm still thinking about the toast in the movie ("you're the butter on my bread, you're the breath of my life"). This post goes well with that.

wv: belly

pasadenapio said...

Butter is a magical ingredient!

gaelikaa said...

We make great butter in Ireland and I just love it. It is the ultimate comfort food especially when eaten with hot toast!!!

Margaret said...

PA: I just say the documentary about crossword puzzles. Gosh, now I can't remember the name, but it got me all excited to do a crossword puzzle. Oleo. I'll remember.

Linda: I may be moved to write one. Stay tuned.

Lynne: 5 1/4 sticks! That's decadence. Enjoy.

Gidyean: I'm glad you liked the movie. I liked it too. Regarding the butter curse: It may be worth revisiting.

Susan: Thank you.

Jean: Loved that toast.

PPIO: Magical indeed. Hope you are feeling better.

Gaelikaa: They sell some Irish butter here, but I've never tried it. I'll buy some and get back to you.

Bec said...

Great post! I love butter - my daughter calls it "cream" for her toast. Can't wait to see J&J movie.

Joanne walked barefoot on the milky way said...

The movie seems contagious! I used to not have the intention of watching, but, now I do. All because of butter (and your post).

Much love Margaret!

Shell Sherree said...

Again with the poetic food descriptions. You have a touch of genius there, Margaret! I'm SO looking forward to the movie - we have to wait a while longer yet. I've never been led off the butter path. I think all that bad butter press is just a big beat up.

... daisy... said...

You know that here in Italy for many cakes we use oliven oil? I love butter... I love bread butter and jam in the mornings at breakfast! :-)
Have a nice weekend!

inkywasfat said...

Your last paragraph was really beautiful.

Margaret said...

Bec: Cream for her toast! Love it.

Joanne: I hope you like. If you're a foodie, I think you'll appreciate it.

Shell: I wonder why it hasn't opened there? I think all these movies open at the same time globally these days.

Daisy: I know all about olive oil cake. Adore it.

Inky: Thanks so much.

ScrewedUp20Something said...

The three secrets to great cooking will always be:

1) Butter
2) Butter
3) Butter

Can't live without it, and really wouldn't want to.

Amanda Phillips said...

Ya know ole Mrs. Paula Deen herself has made this stuff popular again here in the south..My hubby said if she ever gets rid of Capt. Micheal that he is gonna propose immediatly!! Big Ole biggamist..I am running to the fridge to tell the Shed spread gang!

Cafe Pasadena said...

MF, I think you have the vital ingredients to be a baker.

Alison said...

YEAH! Butter! Butter is part of the Trifecta of Doom - bacon, butter, and cheese. All good things we like that are bad for us. And yet, they do comfort us.

Vanda said...

Mmmm.... butter. It's about time someone wrote an ode to butter. It's everywhere, making things smoother, creamier, tastier, yet so humbly, never drawing attention to itself.

Margaret said...

20 something: I like your list, and I agree completely.

Amanda: Too Funny. My husband went to Dean's restaurant in Savannah. What did everything have? A whole lot of butter. He loved it.

CP: I like to bake. The problem is, I want to make dessert and not dinner.

Alison: Cheese! How could I have forgotten about cheese. Ok. I'm going to have to find us cheese quote for next week.

Vanda: I think I want to be butter. Unobtrusive, humble, yet creamy fabulous. But somehow I think I'm too loud. Butter wouldn't be loud. It would be all self effacing and modest.

kanmuri said...

Aaaaah, butter! I love it. Here in Japan dairies are so expensive that I cannot afford butter; I have to buy margarine... T_T