Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Brief History Lesson

Over at Slate, there's a terrific article I wish I'd written; All Churned Around: how buttermilk lost its butter by L. V. Anderson. I had noticed that buttermilk wasn't the leftover milk product of buttermaking anymore, but I didn't take the time to follow up on that thought.Ms. Anderson does take that time. She starts out with a personal recollection--one that I totally get:

I first saw the word buttermilk in print while reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. In one riveting scene (I was 7 years old) Laura’s mom dyes some cream yellow with grated carrot and then churns it into butter. After shaping and embossing the butter, she takes the leftover liquid from the churn and gives Laura and her sister “each a drink of good, fresh buttermilk.”
This whole process—and especially the celebratory buttermilk quaff—stuck with me, as exotic images from literature tend to do when one is a child. So when I saw buttermilk on the menu at a Southern-themed restaurant called Threadgill’s a few months later, I promptly ordered a glass. My parents advised me to reconsider, but I persevered: This was a chance to commune with my favorite author and to prove to my parents that I had a hardy, advanced palate. (My ability to enjoy a glass of buttermilk at the age of 7 carried the same symbolic weight that my ability to enjoy a scotch neat does today.)
My parents were right. The buttermilk was sour, tart: awful. So overwhelmingly acidic was its flavor that I hardly even noticed the creaminess. I abandoned the glass after one sip.
Read the rest at Slate.

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