The Mouth- Waterer

Elle (Canada) - - Radar -

But­ter: Is there a more beau­ti­ful word in the English lan­guage? Es­pe­cially now that full-fat every­thing is trendy again. Granted, ve­g­ans and the lac­tose averse might dis­agree, but af­ter read­ing But­ter, Elaine Khos­rova’s fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory of that glo­ri­ous, golden unc­tu­ous sub­stance, we hope they’d at least have an aca­demic ap­pre­ci­a­tion for a prod­uct that is eaten (and beloved) in cul­tures ev­ery­where from Ire­land to Bhutan and made from the milk of an­i­mals as di­verse as camels and yaks.

“I spent my en­tire pub­lisher’s ad­vance on travel,” says Khos­rova, a recipe de­vel­oper and for­mer test-kitchen ed­i­tor. And although her trav­els took her to some far-flung places (climb­ing 14,000 feet up a moun­tain in Bhutan to meet tra­di­tional herders who make yak but­ter springs to mind), it was ac­tu­ally a lo­cal en­counter that stands out the most: “I found a Bud­dhist nun about two hours from where I live [in the Hud­son Val­ley, N.Y.] who has this in­cred­i­ble ex­per­tise in Ti­betan but­ter cul­ture, and so I found my­self spend­ing time with nuns drink­ing tea and learn­ing about their lives. I re­mem­ber walk­ing out and think­ing how ex­tra­or­di­nary it was that but­ter had taken me there.”

When asked for her favourite but­ter “cocktail-party fun fact,” Khos­rova of­fers two, which ac­tu­ally neatly mir­ror the two ma­jor fo­cuses of the book. The first is his­tor­i­cal (the first stu­dent protest in Amer­i­can his­tory was ac­tu­ally some stu­dents at pre-Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion Har­vard rais­ing a fuss over ran­cid but­ter in the caf), and the other is sci­en­tific (how much fine-tuned cal­i­bra­tion goes into the in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion of but­ter). And that’s the thing about this book: It’ll take for­ever to read only be­cause you’ll be pok­ing the per­son next to you ev­ery five min­utes to tell them some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing you learned about the im­por­tance of cows in the his­tory of women’s work, or how In­di­ans are the world’s largest con­sumers of but­ter, or how still-ed­i­ble but­ter was found buried in an Ir­ish bog that dates back hun­dreds of years.

Oh, and the book has an­other ma­jor sell­ing point: It has a recipe sec­tion in the back chock full of ways you can wor­ship at the al­tar of liq­uid gold your­self. “I re­ally do love the golden but­ter­milk cake recipe,” says Khos­rova, who also sin­gles out the but­ter­scotch can­dies and the crumb cake. “Have [those] in your reper­toire and you’re set.” h

“I found a BuD­dhist nun about two hours from where I live who has this in­cred­i­ble ex­per­tise in Ti­betan but­ter cul­ture, and so I found my­self spend­ing time with nuns drink­ing tea and learn­ing about their lives.”

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