Review:: Butter: A Rich History

It’s a culinary catalyst, an agent of change, a gastronomic rock star. butter coverUbiquitous in the world’s most fabulous cuisines, butter is boss. Here, it finally gets its due.

After traveling across three continents to stalk the modern story of butter, award-winning food writer and former pastry chef Elaine Khosrova serves up a story as rich, textured, and culturally relevant as butter itself.

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 manié, croissants, pâte brisée, and the only buttercream frosting anyone will ever need, as well as practical how-to’s for making various types of butter at home–or shopping for the best.

I received a free e-ARC courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher, Algonquin Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Confession: I grew up using butter in everything that it could possibly be used in. Butter is one of my favorite things to cook with, and I didn’t realize that other people didn’t use butter as much as I do until I moved in with my boyfriend several months ago. Seriously. I had no idea.

Elaine talks about the revival of artisanal butter as a political benefit, since it’s easier to get farm-to-fork food, but fails to discuss what that means for those who can barely afford the basics like butter as it is.

Khosrova did a good job exploring the history of butter use in other countries equally – spending as much time on eastern countries like Tibet as she did on Ireland. It was well balanced, in that sense. Her voice was easy to read and enjoyable, and I learned a lot, from information about how butter was used in religions all over the world to how butter is actually made.

However, she legitimately cited photos from Wikimedia Commons &, which killed a lot of my enthusiasm for reading the book. She took the time to travel across the world to learn about how butter was made and how it was used in various cultures, but couldn’t bother to source some legitimate images? Come on, now.

I’m seriously taking a star off because of the image sourcing. That’s just lazy on her part, or the editors part, and I’m not here for that. That being said, other than that, I loved Butter: A Rich History.  If this sounds like the butter to your bread, you can pick up a copy on Amazon, Indiebound and your other favorite booksellers!

four stars and one empty one meant to signify a four star review

Disclaimer: All links to Indiebound and Amazon are affiliate links, which means that if you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money off of it.

Elaine Khosrova is an independent writer who specializes in stories about food history and gastronomic culture. A former pastry chef and fellowship Elaine Khosrovastudent at the Culinary Institute of America, Elaine holds a BS in food and nutrition. She began her career in food publishing as a test kitchen editor at Country Living magazine, followed by staff positions at Healthy Living, Classic American Home, and Santé Magazine. In 2007, she received a Gold Folio journalism award, and in 2008 she became the founding editor of culture, a national consumer magazine about specialty cheese that continues to serve cheese enthusiasts. She’s contributed to numerous national food and lifestyle publications, as well as the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Cheese. After many excursions into the world of dairy for the sake of cheese lit, Elaine left culture magazine in 2013 to begin research on her book about butter–the first and only publication (thus far) to chronicle the life and times of this beloved fat. Her butter chase took Elaine throughout the United States and to France, Ireland, India, Bhutan, and Canada. She’s never been the same. An avid cook, baker, traveler, camper, cyclist, and musician, Elaine lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley. (via Workman)

2 thoughts on “Review:: Butter: A Rich History

  1. Great review. It looks like an interesting book (I’m curious to see what pictures she used from Wikimedia Commons). I grew up in a margarine household, but I use butter in mine.

    1. My household is still all butter when I cook. My partner is a big fan of cooking sprays and oils, but butter = better for me! If I remember correctly, she pulled images of milkmaids from Wikimedia, and the a picture of a Tibetan god from HDnicewallpapers – that one really ground my gears.

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