September 29, 2006

Butter Me Up

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Butter. Without it, food would not be the same. Most people like it on toast, some people like it on mashed potatoes and everyone likes it on corn. I love butter. When I was younger, I would lick the bottom of the popcorn bowl. Something about the combination of salt and fatty, fatty butter made the tastes buds on my tongue scream, “It’s so good to be alive and a taste bud, living on Charlie’s tongue in 1994!”
Flash forward to my senior year in high school. It’s my favorite time of day. I’m home from school, the weather is nice, I’m about to go swimming and nobody is home. This is the time of day when I normally pillage my family’s fridge, eating every leftover, cake, cream pie, pudding and prepared food I can cram into my mouth. But today was different. Today I wanted to go back to an old favorite. I wanted microwave kettle corn popcorn. The combination of sugar with the great taste of butter and salt is unbeatable. This is the popcorn my family hides in the pantry, so that they won’t be tempted to break their diets.
In the pantry, I let my eyes roll over to the spot where the popcorn normally lies (behind the garbanzo beans, behind the tall can of soup stock, literally where nobody else in my family will EVER be tempted by it). To my shock, there was none left. I cursed. I panicked. I had no snack back-up plan. That is when I crossed the line: The line between a kid who liked butter, to a kid who really liked butter. I thought about what I loved so much about popcorn: salt and butter. I took out a stick of butter. I took out a salt shaker. I cut thin slices of butter. I salted them. I ate them. Delicious.
Now that we have established that I am crazier then you, and like butter more than you do — probably a lot more — let me tell you some interesting things I have learned about snack foods and butter in recent years.
If you ever ate at Coldstone’s Creamery you have most likely tried their famous “cake batter” ice cream. I also tried this overpriced “premium” ice cream. While all of my friends said, “oooh, this tastes like real cake” and “oh my! I can’t believe how good this tastes!” I thought to myself, “Where have I tasted this before … it doesn’t really taste like cake batter, but it does taste very good.” Then it hit me. It just tastes like butter. Not like eggs, not like flour, baking powder, baking soda or sugar. Just butter. They couldn’t sell it as butter flavor because nobody would want to eat anything called butter flavor.
Which brings me to this summer when I ate butter flavor. I had just related to my friends how much I love butter, and was telling them all these stories about how good it tastes, etc. And we just happened to be hanging out near a popcorn machine, which had a large jug of butter flavor next to it. Five friends paid me a dollar each to slug back a shot of butter flavor. Folks, don’t go there. Ever. I can’t believe I just put that in a column. I’m ashamed; let’s move on. Please don’t make fun of me.
If I am the Superman of butter, my friend Jon is the Bizzaro Superman of butter. He hates butter. Not just the taste either. He is actually afraid of it. There is no butter in the house, there is no butter in his cooking and there is no butter anywhere. Cookies stick to pans, toast is dry and when I had lobster at his house, there was a problem. See, the only reason I like lobster (besides the fact that I get to wear a bib) is because society allows us to dip each and every bite into butter. When I mentioned how excited I was to do this, the truth about Jon and butter came out. There was no butter in the house, and the lobsters were already boiling. I sprung to action! Faster than a speeding bullet, I ran to a 7-Eleven, bought one stick of butter and raced home. His mom made me heat the small amount of butter I wanted up in a Dixie cup, which would be thrown away after the meal. The remaining butter was thrown away in an outside garbage can. It hurt me to waste so much, but at least I had my very full Dixie cup of joy. Long story short, I accidentally spilled the whole cup of butter on my friend and ruined an otherwise lovely pair of pants and a friendship.
Now, my friend Josh loves butter also. We both enjoy chessmen cookies, which taste alarmingly like plain butter. When I revealed how similar they tasted, Josh expressed intrigue in trying my butter and salt snack. Much like Ray Charles’ friend who introduces Ray Charles to heroin in the movie Ray, I said to my friend Josh, “Remember now Ray, this ain’t no Bitch! This is boy.” I never really knew what that line meant, but I enjoyed saying out loud in a somewhat applicable context, “Josh loved the butter snack.”
Butter: my life wouldn’t be the same without it. And now you can never look me in the eye again, because you know that on several occasions, I have eaten it with salt plain, because I was too lazy to make popcorn.