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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Gliding's preferable

SIPs - simple inexpensive pleasures. An occasional series.

This post is not about butter and/or bread it's about my personal attitude towards buttering bread. Margarine has a brief walk-on/walk-off part and can be dealt with quickly. During and immediately after WW2 margarine (Hard g or soft g?) may have been smeared on bread in our household, I wouldn't know. It may have been unpleasant to taste, I wouldn't know that. What I do remember is that margarine-smeared bread carried intense social stigma. Only cads and those living below the poverty line ate it.

Aged about eight I was allowed to spread my own bread - long before the introduction of sliced bread (proof of moral degeneracy according to Daily Mail readers) or microwaves. I didn't enjoy this task. Applying rock-hard butter  to roughly hacked bread resulted in a plateful of crumb-covered greasy balls. Yes there were techniques but adults weren't telling. And don't let's talk about sticking butter under the grill; one always left it there too long.

Toast became even more popular since it better resisted spreading. I think, but cannot be sure, I took the line of least resistance and gave up bread-and-butter for several decades. Marriage seemed to coincide with the ready availability of spreadable butter that was also palatable. Our favoured brand has a sick-making name: Lurpak. But we're not slavish. Kerrygold (above) was on offer. The bread is Polish and is one of the best arguments for retaining EU freedom of movement.

No one has written an ode to spreadable butter and I don't intend to start. No doubt there are atavists who swear by intractable butter. Me, I swear at it.  Spreadable butter has removed a minor irritation which, cumulatively, might have driven me to the grave by now.

Let's laud Lurpak.


  1. My uncle was a farm bailiff. The farm was a mix of fruit (well this is Kent, after all) and cattle. They drank their own milk, made all their butter/cheese. Aged about 14 I sometimes stayed with them. I have never since tasted better butter. (On re-reading, that last sentence could go straight to advertising)

  2. Avus: No doubt, no doubt. But your opinion is subjective (coloured too by local patriotism) and may depend on your youth and the possibility that you've never tasted butter from the south-west, Scotland or Normandy. That's why I stressed this post is about spreadability, a quality that can be objectively - visibly - defined. I don't want to discourage you from contributing but spreadability is a subject that can be discussed; taste tends to lead only to argument. Believe me I speak as an ex-drama critic and an amateur oenologist, two fields where knives are constantly being unsheathed and nobody's hide is safe.

  3. Spreading is unnecessary. Thin slice the hard butter (easier with 1/4 lb. sticks) to about 3mm and distribute the slices evenly over your bread.. 6mm "pats" are better still.

  4. MikeM: Ingenious, but a 3 mm layer of butter would be excessive by my standards. And cutting thinner than 3 mm would be difficult unless (possibly) one used the sort of cheese-cutter that employs a wire rather than a blade. And then we're into that darker area, often discussed in blogs, about acquiring more and more specialised kitchen equipment and (a) finding a place to store said acquisition, and (b) remembering you've got it if it's only used fairly rarely.

    There is another option and that's to blast the butter in the microwave and then paint it on to the bread with a brush kept specially for that purpose. This technique is common in cafes where price is the dominant criterion. Most people I've discussed this method with have lurched away in revulsion - the reason being (I think) that there are limits to the industrialisation of culinary techniques.

    Knowing this re-comment is destined westwards I've fallen into a reverie, remembering a place I used to lunch at in Philadelphia where a bowl of snapper soup came with a tiny decanter of sherry. Delicious. Although some indigenous colleagues seemed to equate the experience with cooking and eating one's grannie.

  5. The snappers are now full of PCBs and the fish are full of mercury. Donald Trump has chosen a new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, an Oklahoma State Attorney General who is currently a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the EPA. But that was yesterday's news. Today it's that he's chosen a founder of the WWE (formerly WWF) to head the Small Business Administration. WWE is the "professional" wresting outfit. The one where steroidal clowns choreograph their battles prior to entering the ring. And I have been blessed with a metabolism which negates colesterol concerns, probably sparing me from a cardiac arrest that would in turn spare me from witnessing any further such debacles.