Butter Babies

  I was in the middle of eating an ear of wonderfully sweet corn earlier today when I realized I still made a butter ledge in the ear to start. A holdover from my childhood! Funny, I don’t remember just who taught me the trick but I was very young and at an Obermiller family reunion at the farm. When you eat an ear of corn, you need to eat a couple of rows the length of the corn to make a butter ledge. Then, when you roll the ear across the stick of butter, the ledge collects and holds the butter in place while you eat the next row! It’s a Butter Baby’s delight.

I formed my eating habits in the 50s and 60s. Cholesterol wasn’t heard of and saturated fat had not been demonized yet. Our public school cafeteria lunch ladies made the greatest peanut butter cookies on the planet and we drank whole milk to wash them down. They had different ideas about nutrition in those days and EVERYTHING was buttered! Vegetables, potatoes and pasta got doused and they buttered the bread of every sandwich…even the hot dog and hamburger rolls! Truth to tell, we ate margarine at home, mostly. I don’t remember the days when you had to mix the coloring into the lardy stuff because it was yellow and in sticks at our table. I remember when Mrs. Filberts made it’s debut; the cadillac of margarines! We even made the coveted Christmas Butter Cookies with it to save money that year. Butter at home was a real treat, like Sunday morning when Mom would walk down to Smolinski’s bakery for fresh, crispy hard rolls and a pound of butter from Markiewicz’s Superette. Those rolls and butter were comfort food at its best; a shared delight. Real butter was the final ingredient in the homemade Hershey’s Cocoa fudge that Mom made sometimes as a treat.

Around 1958, Bethlehem Steel went on strike for almost 10 months. Money was so tight for us and many families that we were signed up for Surplus Food from the government. Every month my mother lined up with her food book to get the allotment for six people in our family. They gave us powdered eggs (yuck), powdered milk (that took a cement mixer to get the lumps out of), oatmeal, flour, sugar and canned meat (double yuck). The best things were five pound blocks of cheese (lots of mac and cheese in those days) and one pound of real butter for each person. That seemed like such a luxury to me. Real butter- all the time! It made those endless grilled cheese sandwiches just melt in your mouth. My mom made some great oatmeal cookies with those other things but it was having butter in the fridge that somehow took the sting out of those months of scrimping. Even then it seemed decadent.

Theres a TV commercial on lately that shows a 50s sitcom kind of mom giving her family baked potatoes with a whole stick of yellow gold in each. Yeah, baby! Baked potatoes and butter are a match made in heaven. I think it’s a commercial for cholesterol drugs, but the only thing that caught my attention was those potatoes. It’s only fair to report that despite my obesity and love of butter, my cholesteral at last check was 163, with lots more good ones than bad. That’s purely genetics, believe me! One of these days those genes may turn on me and I may have to give up the red meat that’s my favorite food, but they’ll have to pry the butter from my cold, dead hands!

The tougher the economy gets, the more luxuries we’ll have to give up. My saving grace is that butter on sale isn’t much more costly than margarine so I refuse to feel guilty. Hey, I already gave up a gallon of Diet Coke a day…a girl has to have some pleasure in life! I’ll keep baking cakes and cookies with butter, cooking my eggs in it, and biting a butter ledge into every corn ear to get more. When we picked yellow buttercup flowers as kids, we would hold them under someone’s chin. If the shiny petals reflected yellow onto your chin, it meant you loved butter. I don’t remember, but my whole face must have turned yellow because I’m a butter baby for sure.

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