Fact today, myth tomorrow

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Both my grandmothers lived long lives. One lived to the age of 86, the other to 92. This was before the cholesterol obsession held sway.

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

Grandmama’s house in North Carolina was home to us. We had a cow named Star who was milked every day. She was a great milk producer and was the source for whole milk, cream, butter and buttermilk.

In the pantry was a shelf where earthenware crocks and the butter churn lived side by side, waiting to be used.

Leroy brought the pail of milk up to the house before breakfast. Grandmama strained it and put it into the various containers designated for milk.

The butter churn was made of glass, with about a gallon capacity. There was a metal screw-top through which the paddle and handle were connected.

My job was to churn the butter. I don’t remember how long it took, but remember sitting at the kitchen table turning and turning the handle and watching for flecks of butter to form. After the butter was clearly visible, Grandmama would pour off the buttermilk. Then I’d scoop out the chunks of butter and put them into a bowl with cold water. We had a wooden butter paddle with ridges on one side and a smooth surface on the other. This was used to work the butter into a rough ball and squeeze any remaining milk out into the water. The water would be drained off, and salt would be added to the butter and worked through it. I was the taster.

There was a wooden butter mold we mashed the butter into to form a round cake. This would be pushed out onto a saucer, Grandmama had two wooden molds. One had a star pattern on it and the other had a squirrel holding an acorn.

We usually used the mold with the star, but for holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, we used the squirrel and acorn mold.

Grandmama used this butter for the table, to bake with, and mixed half and half with salt to put on red bug bites (chiggers).

The thick cream that collected on top of the milk was used in coffee and on oatmeal and was whipped for use as a dessert topping. The buttermilk was used for making biscuits, chocolate cakes and to drink.

For most of my adult life I was educated about the evils of eating real butter. However, I dismissed this information because for centuries prior to World War II people ate butter and apparently thrived. This was also true of chocolate, eggs, wine and coffee, four other foods condemned by popular culture.

Frankly, I never believed any of that and continued to consume moderate amounts of everything in the food and beverage category that tasted good. I firmly believed that butter was better. And now, all of those items are back on the approved list. It is sad to think of all those poor people who denied themselves real food in favor of artificial foods which are now believed to be hazardous to their health. Of course, a few decades from now all the current data on this will once again change. So, take it with a grain of salt.