An underrated and versatile ingredient in the kitchen - Butter

Image Credit: Emma Lambkin

Sam Carthy writes about how underrated butter is in the kitchen, and how a little dollop of the golden stuff can vastly improve almost any meal.

Note that I do not say a ‘stick’ of butter, nor a knob, for butter, like its taste, to a certain degree unquantifiable, inestimable, dare I say… ineffable? Velvety soft and with a golden lustre that shames the mere metal of that name, Irish butter is rightly a pride of the country, and in your kitchens too it should have pride of place.

It is the common lot of students that we often find ourselves scraping meals together with scraps, leftovers and pre-packaged foods. In each of these cases, the addition of butter can improve, sometimes miraculously, not just the taste and texture of the meal but also the satiety it provides. Scrambling some eggs? Butter will lend a mellow heartiness. Facing a pot of pasta with Centra’s finest tomato sauce? Slip some butter in with that sauce and taste the difference. Even that mainstay of student cuisine, ramen noodles, can be improved with a generous dollop of buttery-gold goodness.

butter is a sublime gift from kindly cows

Now some may cry out about health or calories or some-such words to that effect. To this I answer simply, there are no unhealthy or ‘bad’ foods, only unhealthy habits. To the rejoinder that drugs are unhealthy I would say that drugs are not food, except that I clearly recall cooking with both alcohol and coffee, so perhaps some are. Before we argue over whether unhealthy foods exist, we should agree on what it means to be unhealthy (e.g. whether portion size affects this), what it means to be food (what drugs count? Is salt a food or a condiment?) and even what it means to exist (is it enough to say that a food is unhealthy if it does x, y or z, or do you need to provide a real-world example of such a food). 

None of that debate is possible of course, as this is a printed article and not a conversation, so I shall ignore it and go on as if I were right all along - there are no unhealthy foods, butter is a sublime gift from kindly cows and adding some ground coffee is an excellent way to bring out the flavours of chocolate cake. But the uses of butter do not end at ‘elevating any dish known to humanity’. It is quite useful as a cooking enabler as well as an ingredient. Greasing a pan before a fry is often done with vegetable oils - butter provides a nutritious (an essentially meaningless term as ‘nutrition’ is deliciously vague) alternative that brings out a fuller taste, while rubbing butter on the inside of a baking tray helps to stop baking paper sticking to it when you are, you guessed it, baking. And in these harsh winter months let us not forget our perennial friends, the birds, who are well served with a ball of butter rolled in seeds, giving them the calories needed to stay plump and happy.

In closing, life is short, so take chances, laugh loudly, and eat the butter.