My mother and I disagreed about a lot of things, but butter was right up there near the top of the list. She thought margarine was healthier and I thought butter tasted better. Kids never win these debates, but you know exactly what I did as soon as I grew up. That’s right, I used butter. OMG did I use butter!
Nothing like living and cooking in France to encourage a lavish use of butter and we were going through a pound a week easy. As all good things come to an end, so did my butter indulgence. My cooking horizons expanded. Olive oil moved into my pantry replacing butter as my fat of choice. And along the way, before I actually went back to study nutrition, I picked up one of those pivotal books in my culinary nutrition education.
The original Laurel’s Kitchen came out of the Berkeley counter culture vegetarian movement and was published 1976. My version, The New Lauren’s Kitchen was published about 10 years later and is still in print today, a testament to the book’s enduring value and our collective hunger for healthy eating. Reduced fat was the nutritional byword at that time, but even back then we loved out butter and Laurel offered an ingenious solution.
As she put it in the preface for the Better-Butter recipe: “This is surely one of the most popular of all our recipes. It offers an easy spreading alternative to margarine, which can otherwise be the most highly processed — and salted — food in a natural foods kitchen. Better-Butter combines butter (for flavor) with the unsaturated fats of good-quality oil. The result is a spread that’s as low in saturated fat as margarine, but without hydrogenation, processing, and additives.”
Note that the comparison with margarine was made prior to the arrival of soft spreads.
The battle between butter versus margarine rages to this day. Industrial production versus the real thing. Fresh, natural, organic butter churned from grass fed, pastured raised cows versus phytosterol enhanced, expeller expressed soft spread from nonGMO grown, mono-unsaturated canola oil.
Being older now and hopefully wiser, this dietitian still finds herself sitting right in the middle in the line of fire from both sides. There is evidence to support the argument that saturated fats should be minimized and replaced with polyunsaturated fats. And there is evidence to support the argument that saturated fats are actually not the most toxic natural substance known to mankind and their potential for harm has been overstated.
If butter is your thing, this dietitian says enjoy it but exercise moderation just in case. If soft spread is your thing, this dietitian says enjoy it and feel confident that the product has been engineered to eliminate those truly unhealthy hydrogenated fatty acids.
And for those of you looking for a third option, give better-butter a try. Half butter and half olive oil is a credible, good tasting alternative. The original recipe used volume measure, but being the nutrition nerd I am, my preference is to use the scale and do weight measurement. Both ways work.
Better-butter is a great tasting homemade do it yourself alternative.
And Laurel was right about one more thing. Even just out of the refrigerator, better-butter really is easy spreading. And that is the really cool part.