Sunday, November 13, 2016


Butter: A Rich History- Elaine Khosrova
Algonquin Books
Release Date: November 15, 2016

Rating (out of 5):

Synopsis: From its humble agrarian origins to its present-day artisanal glory, butter has a fascinating story to tell, and Khosrova is the perfect person to tell it. With tales about the ancient butter bogs of Ireland, the pleasure dairies of France, and the sacred butter sculptures of Tibet, Khosrova details butter’s role in history, politics, economics, nutrition, and even spirituality and art. Readers will also find the essential collection of core butter recipes, including beurre maniΓ©, croissants, pΓ’te brisΓ©e, and the only buttercream frosting anyone will ever need, as well as practical how-tos for making various types of butter at home--or shopping for the best.


One of my favorite kinds of non-fiction book to read is the book that explores the history of a particular thing: from clothes to chairs, customs to countries.  Food history has begun to get its due with books like Mark Kurlansky's Salt, and now Elaine Khosrova's Butter: A Rich History.  A what a history it has!  This seemingly simple and ubiquitous kitchen staple has a complex and fascinating story to tell, and Khosrova tells it in a well-researched and engaging style.

Butter explores early domesticated animals across the world from cows to yaks and how different cultures across the globe see milk and butter. If you've ever wondered how an animal can eat green grass and its' white milk produce yellow butter this is the place to go for an answer.  Butter sculpting didn't start with county fairs in Iowa and Ohio, but with ancient Tibetan Buddhism.  How many other foods can claim the mystical, artistic, symbolic, and economic importance that butter can? 

I was especially interested in reading about the cultural history of butter in terms of its economics and gender roles.  Apparently for centuries butter was a divisive topic across much of Europe: Greeks and Italians used olive oil where others used butter and when they wanted to insult someone they called them a "butter-eater" (a barbarian). Khosrova explores the importance of butter and other dairy products for women (the iconic dairymaids) as a way to have a measure of respect and financial independence.  

A fun addition to the book is an appendix listing the word "butter" in languages across the globe.  And, as an added bonus, Butter includes a section with some "greatest hits" recipes centering around butter.  I'm a terrible cook, but even I am inspired to try out some of these tasty sounding treats: Buttermilk Scones, Butterscotch Pudding, Easy Buttercream Frosting, Best-Ever Crumb Cake- the recipes alone should make you want to pick up this book!  Everyone will enjoy the rich history and lore, physics and chemistry, past and present that is the fascinating story of Butter.  

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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