The rich history of butter

Butter: A Rich HistoryButter forms the foundation of most pastries, cookies, and cakes, and it is indispensible in many savory dishes as well. A recently published book about the ubiquitous dairy product dives into its 10,000 year history, tracing its rise from accidental discovery by herders to revered culinary catalyst. Butter: A Rich History by award-winning food writer and chef Elaine Khosrova serves up a story as rich, textured, and culturally relevant as butter itself.

NRP's The Salt explores this intriguing history in an interview with the author. Khosrova's book details the vital role butter has played in politics, economics, nutrition, even spirituality and art. "I felt like I had uncovered an epic story that very few people had been paying attention to," she explained to NPR.

There are many interesting tidbits of information about the role butter has played throughout history in many different cultures. Ancient Sumerians offered gifts of butter to honor of the fertility goddess Inanna, and early Celts likely presented butter as tribute to the pagan gods. Butter was used as medicine by the ancient Romans, and the first recorded student revolt - at Harvard University in the 1700s - was due to the students being served rancid butter in the dining hall.

In addition to this fascinating history, Butter includes an essential collection of carefully developed core butter recipes, from beurre manié and croissants to pâte brisée and the perfect buttercream frosting. It also provides practical how-tos for making various types of butter at home. 

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