In the past year, as a society, we have watched people destroy their coffee makers with vodka and attempt to froth milk with a soap dispenser, among other bizarre and ultimately fruitless food hacks and recipes. The butter board trend, however, has somehow taken up space rent-free in everyone’s minds, and is practically going through all the stages of life within a month of its emergence.
It all began on TikTok, as it often does, when, on September 15, Brooklyn-based cook Justine Doiron boldly asserted her desire to make butter boards the “new charcuterie board.” In the video, Doiron spread softened butter on a wooden board and went to town, covering it in flaky sea salt, lemon zest, herbs, red onion, honey, and even edible flowers. She then demonstrated how to eat it by dipping a slice of bread into her concoction.
Comments on her video range from elation to absolute disgust, with some users calling the idea “next level” and proclaiming we have entered our “butter era,” while others are voicing their concerns with double-dipping (“in the age of COVID-19?” commenters point out) and nutrition, as well as likening it to “lubing up a cutting board.”
Since Doiron posted, butter boards have infiltrated the discourse in ways no one could predict. The hosts of The View did a butter board tasting, the dish was lauded as the “perfect fall appetizer,” and the trend is now being blamed for the imminent butter shortage.
Despite the rapidly proliferating rage, the butter board is far from a new idea. Thanks to Doiron’s video, the creator of the sensation was revealed to be Portland chef and cookbook author Joshua McFadden, but the concept dates back much further. The French frequently snack on radishes strewn with salt and thick slabs of butter; Midwesterners layer cream cheese and shrimp on a plate akin to a charcuterie board; and many restaurants have already ventured into the boundless world of butter.
“We’ve been doing [the butter board] for around 5 years, and it has always been a favourite amongst our guests,” says Paul Ainsworth, the chef behind Caffé Rojano in Padstow, England. “Butter is so much more than something that you use in sandwiches or on toast and, with the right accompaniments, it really is a dish on its own. It feels right that it is getting the recognition it deserves.”
Twitter is abuzz as well:It’s hard to see anything intrinsically amiss with the concept. When served a complimentary basket of fresh-baked bread and butter at a restaurant, many people gladly dig in. So, why should this be any different? The butter board is ideal for those who are unable to afford or fetch the ingredients required to make a standard charcuterie board. It also takes less precision and time, as you don’t have to worry about the placement of certain cheeses, meats, and fruits.
And, like cakes in the form of inanimate objects, the butter board brings about the necessary, overarching question: Why are we constantly trying to make things look like something else? In other words, why can’t we just enjoy butter as it is?
Butter has a particularly contentious role in American psyches. For decades, low-fat diet trends have consistently encouraged an aversion to butter. However, as industry analysts explore the role of fat in diets, and the ingredient regains popularity, we have to wonder if the board is a celebration of the fat-or a way for some of us to creatively consume something we were taught to avoid.
Regardless of the uproar, only time will tell where this trend goes. All that’s left to do is patiently wait and see if someone brings a butter board to Thanksgiving.
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