When the north wind howls, I flee to the kitchen. I grab a cup of butter from the fridge or from the countertop where it’s softening and before long, the cabin fills with the oven’s warmth and the smell of baked goods. I know the holiday season goes hand-in-hand with overindulgence on special holiday recipes and that for many people, each delicious morsel swallowed brings a guilty pang. Yet I have come to believe that life is better with butter and that the sooner we dispel any guilt associated with its consumption, the happier we’ll all be.
Paula Poundstone once said that she sees bread as nothing more than a vehicle to get butter into her mouth. While I can’t deny that bread and butter is delicious, I don’t share her passionate love of butter in its rawest form. I prefer my butter creamed with sugar, mixed with a few eggs, some flour, and made into cookies, cakes, sweet bread and everything else with sweet, ‘melt in your mouth’ qualities.
When Julie Powell of Julie and Julia fame resolved to make all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a single year, one of the questions people most wanted her to answer was how much butter weight she’d gained in the process. Not only is this a rude question, but I’m inclined to think that a little butter weight does us Northerners good. If black bears can spend all summer stuffing their faces with berries and foraging for grubs to put on a cozy layer of fat for winter, I see no reason why humans can’t engage similar behaviors . . . albeit, sans grub foraging.
When we belly up to the holiday smorgasbord, we’re simply winterizing our bodies. There’s no telling when we might become stranded in a snowbank for a night or two and be forced to live off of last year’s Christmas cookies, which we’ve handily stored on our hips and in that odd little roll just below our waists.
Sure the mail-order catalogs that show up in January and February would lead you to believe that swimsuit season is right around the corner, but unless you’re planning a mid-winter getaway to Cancun or the Bahamas, this is a lie. Some of those frozen lakes in our backyards won’t open until mid-May and even after that, there’s still a couple months before we’re actually going to be swimming. The Christmas cookie you eat today can rest on your hips for months before you have to worry about shifting it around for the fabled swimsuit body.
Of course, overindulgence should be avoided – mostly because butter-induced nausea is a nasty, nasty thing – but the winter is no time to worry about weight. If the camera adds 10 pounds, then the down jacket, snow pants, Arctic explorer boots, hat, mittens, scarf, five layers of sweaters and long underwear add at least 20, if not 30, pounds. This is the time of year when the only thing people will notice about you is your eyes because that is the only thing they can see of you, peeping out from between where your scarf ends and your hat begins.
This holiday season, I say, have some more butter, whipped cream, eggnog, soy lattes, or whatever your creamy vice may be. Butter shouldn’t be seen as a bother. After all, any guilty feelings about seasonal eating can be channeled into New Year’s resolutions all too soon anyway. Instead, I suggest we view butter a delicious luxury, something with the ability to make our lives a little tastier.
Airdate: December 22, 2010