Like butter

Pub date May 20, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS I was eating eggs fried in butter and scratch biscuits made with butter and then slathered with butter, thinking about addiction, and how I don’t have an addictive personality.

I’m addicted to popcorn. But oddly enough, I don’t like butter on my popcorn. That’s how I know I’m not addicted to butter. Just popcorn.

The last time I saw my sweet, good, dear friend what’s-her-name, we were standing in her kitchen at 9 p.m. eating butter with spoons. It wasn’t just any butter. It was fresh-churned, European-style, organic, free-range, home-schooled hippie butter. And it was bringing me back.

See, I grew up on the stuff. My mom used to buy unhomogenized milk from our Amish neighbors, skim the cream off the top, and we kids would take turns cranking the churner and cursing our mother for being such a hippie-ass Amish wannabe.

Probably I complained the loudest. And without doubt I consumed the most butter. To me, butter never was a "spread" as much as a food group. We had this 100-percent whole wheat bread that was heaven hot out of the oven and then cooled into basically lumber. So there was a window of opportunity for bread and butter, and the rest of the time it was just butter. For me. Thanks.

But: I’m not an addict.

This week my mom turns 75. She doesn’t read me, but I’ll say it anyway: happy 3/4 of a stick, you goddamn hippie-ass Amish wannabe! Thank you for giving me butter. And thank you, dear sweet goddamn Juicy Toots, for respoiling me half-a-life later. Because frankly, even though I have spewed prose, poetry, and other art forms in praise of butter, I had kind of forgotten what it tasted like.

It tastes like clouds. Slightly sour, somewhat sweet, seriously salted cumulus clouds formed from the condensed tears of exiled angels, with annatto for coloring.

First I thought she churned it herself, and perhaps milked the cow that morning at some North Oakland happy hippie co-op creamery.

No, she said. She got it at the store.

I was astounded. I shop in stores. Like millions of Americans, I make my weekly grocery list on the back of some junk mail envelope, faithfully magnet it to my refrigerator, forget to bring it to the store with me, come home and stand before the refrigerator, with bags of sweating things around my feet reading my grocery list to see what I forgot, and never once have I forgotten to buy European-style, fresh-churned, cultured and salted butter that tastes like clouds.

I slept on Juicy Toots’ couch that night, with Juicy Toots’ cat, also named Juicy Toots, and I dreamed of slippery and saturated things. We had eaten butter for an appetizer, butter on bread with our spaghetti, and then butter again for dessert.

On my way home in the morning I stopped at the store, any store, listless as usual and with only one thing on my mind (although I’m not an addict). Yes, they had it! A couple different kinds of fancy-pants, top-shelf butter, ranging from like seven to eight bucks. No wonder I never saw it! My mind has a kind of barcode-scanning filter chip that doesn’t even allow me to see things that cost more than $2.89.

What I did: I bought a pint of heavy cream for $2.89, let it sit in the car for a few hours after I got home, cooled it in the fridge, poured it into a glass jar, shook it for 20 minutes until a big yellow lump formed, poured off the buttermilk for future pancake batter, rinsed the solid lump in cold water, pressed it dry, sprinkled it with salt, plopped it on a plate, and stood there looking at it and giggling. I had made my own butter.

You can too, dear reader, unless of course your time, unlike mine, is valuable. Twenty minutes of vigorous shaking, just to make butter? I know, I know. Gotta get to work. Gotta get to the gym and tone those arms, so they stop jiggling. Check it out:

My new favorite restaurant is Uncle Willie’s BBQ & Fish, in downtown Oakland. Wings and fishes get fried, and ribs, chickens, and briskets go on the grill. The fried is pretty good, but the ribs are great. Very smoky, tender, and juicy. Whatever Willie’s dry-rubbing … it works. Of the sides I’ve tried, I loved the collard greens and corn bread. The red beans and rice are nothing special. Nice folks, great place. 2


614 14th St., Oakl.

(510) 465-9200

Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

No alcohol