BUTTER ME UP, THEN by Harry McAvinchey


Glad to see it. Butter is good for you again .This year you can slather huge quantities of the creamy yellow cow- stuff over your toast and snaffle it all down without regret.Butter has been bad for you for over  thirty years in Norneverland .It was decreed , I think  shortly  after it had made an unassuming appearance in that Marlon Brando film “Last Tango in Paris”  of 1972 when he used it s lubricious qualities to gain greater ease with  the comely  Maria Schneider …  Since those faraway days  of erotic regret ,until now,  in the season of “Fifty Shades of Tat”, where everything under the sun is sexually acceptable, and DIY shops are  being raided daily for cable ties and various items of bedroom restraint ,it has been pulled back out of the shadows  to resume its place of preference on the breakfast table.

Back then , the sales of butter probably dropped like a heart -stopped  gannet when we were told that butter was “bad” and  margarine was “good”.Even my  dear mother took note for a while and the very frying- pan lost its place of pre-eminence  and the then prominent  fry-ups were restricted to only a few days per week. Margarine was the new healthy thing ,then. Never mind the quality , look how easy you can spread this new stuff made from vegetable oil and a bit of this and that.  It was full of  healthy polywhatcimacallits too….After that  came adverts following  on  with a  variety of one thing and another …. “You Better Believe It’s Butter With Knobs On  Spread”  or “You’ll Never Guess What We Made This New Sandwich Spread Out Of This Time, Spread”….and yes , that’s right “We’ve Discovered A New Use for  Car Waste Oil, Spread”…….and so on …..

So butter is back on the radar as “healthy” again. I have to say, I’ve long since drifted back into its mellow , unctuous   clutches years ago and use it copiously, in and on everything ,from creamed spuds to frying a nice rib-eye  steak.I’m afraid ,I’m a bit of a butter fiend already, so the original propaganda did not stick too well and this latest news would be falling on already butter-clogged ears.It simply joined olive oil as more of that good greasy stuff that I could consume .Margarine would never be a substitute on that fat, toasted  “heel” of a loaf. There really was no replacement for the real thing. Sure, you could dip your bread in olive oil and some lovely balsamic  vinegar, but you wouldn’t dip your toast in it.For that there was no proxy.It had to be butter or you might as well not be alive at all.

I was just wondering, had “the Powers- That -Be” decided that butter had been in purdah long enough and now needed a commercial boost again , so they put the “fix” in with some scientist to give it the green card …a clean bill of health again, if you like. Had the farmers cried out that they’d go under if butter sales did not rise again sometime soon?We’ve been down this road too many times before , of course .We’re going through the era of “Five a Day” at the moment . For anyone out of the loop that ‘s five pieces of fruit to be consumed  every day …and those two bottles of fruity  Malbec , or Rioja ,in the evening ,don’t count. Potatoes have also felt the cold wind of propaganda  in the past. Someone out there enjoys telling us all what we should eat and what we should not.

This kind of social propaganda is not really new.At one time eating fish was seen as a “Popish plot”…I know ….the conspiracy theorists are out again …but there is a nugget of truth there too. Some of the foundations of this were laid down at the time of Henry the Eight and the Reformation, when Henry divorced himself from the church so that he could marry as many women as he wanted to.Fish were on dodgy ground and were seen as “popish flesh”, strongly associated with the enemy, Roman Church and it’s many days of fasting. Without all those fish -only fasting days there were’t as many of the wee slippery ,silver  darlings consumed .The fall-off of fish consumption began to have an adverse effect on fishermen so that when Henry’s young son, Edward VI, took over in 1547, fast days were reinstated by law to give the fishermen a bit of a boost…

It was decreed  “for worldly and civil policy, to spare flesh, and use fish, for the benefit of the commonwealth, where many be fishers, and use the trade of living.”

Right up until the 20th century fish and the “fast days” associated with the Roman Catholic Church  had a social  effect on the fishing trade and on the economics of many countries. It makes sense when you think about it.When Pope Paul the Sixth freed up the rules of fasting  for Catholics in the 1960’s, fish prices dropped .During the forty days of Lent , true believing Catholics are still expected to avoid eating meat.Fish, you see was always okay to eat because it was seen as a cold -blooded creature , unlike a warm-blooded animal which was in a different sort of “spiritual” league . The warm-blooded creature was seen as a sort of sacrificial  meal whose warm flesh was somehow “holier” than a  cold-blooded fish or a snake.

Anything is possible now .Cigarettes could yet get a reprieve. Back in the 1950s, I can remember  they were really  very good for you. They were really glamorous too and  could literally fight some diseases.  That was before the likes of John Wayne collapsed from cancer with a fag between his quivering lips.

Now they , like butter have felt the chill wind on their collar .Could we all be hectored and  advised to get back to the roll-ups for the benefit of our health,  some time in the middle of the century? Remember , you read it here first …way …way back in 2015!!

5 Responses to BUTTER ME UP, THEN by Harry McAvinchey

  1. Am Ghobsmacht February 25, 2015 at 7:40 pm #


    The best way I can square this away is to see butter as something natural. Margarine is synthetic.

    In Croatia (where my missus is from) they consume a staggering amount of pastries, salted/cured pork, fried food and wine.

    Yet their heart disease rate and obesity rate is a fraction of ours.

    I think eating food as opposed to ‘factory food’ makes all the difference.

    I’m sure drinking wine as opposed to beer helps too (from a heart point of view at least). And onions and garlic. They fairly put them away and onions& garlic are seemingly wonderfood for the heart (but not the love life).

    Literally food for thought methinks.

  2. ben madigan February 25, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

    I was too young at the time to realize denigrating butter was just a sales ploy to push the new margarines. They did make an appearance in our house but didn’t stay long as we refused to eat them. We hated them and I have continued to eat butter ever since.

    Having said that, we never had Ulster frys – everything was grilled except for the eggs.Potato bread and soda bread went into the toaster!
    My parents ( the original foodies?) liked “balanced” meals –

    Shock and horror when my grandmother came to stay for a bit while my mother was in hospital. She fried everything she saw in the fridge! Father tried to compensate with “wholesome” casseroles . Mother demanded an early discharge! We all survived grandma’s tasty fry-ups!

  3. paddykool February 26, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    Am Ghob and Ben . Just beware and try not to take everything I write with a completely straight face . Sometimes the tongue- in- cheek irony can’t be clearly seen in the written words.
    I am a great one for all kinds of food …as you say lots of onions , garlic and wine.. how can you cook anything without a bit of garlic and the humble onion?……but i do like a good pint of ale too …and I still enjoy that old butter. My dear,late mum was actually a very cosmopolitan cook who baked her own bread most days and provided proper home-cooking…and I was eating some quite exotic adventurous dishes even way back in the 1950’s as a wee boy … which weren’t the everyday norm…the ingredients were harder to find then. . You might have heard of the April Fools Day TV spoof from the late 1950’s / early 1960’s concerning growing spaghetti on trees. Well many would have no idea back then, …that’s a fact…foreign travel wasn’t everyone’s experience…. but my mum wouldn’t have been one of them. The trusty old frying pan was a real feature in many households, of course , so it went hand in hand with everything else and there were were many fry-ups back then too .Strangely, my dad had wide ranging tastes too ,but he could never face the simple fried egg for some reason. This from a man who even tried a whale steak at one point!!!

  4. ANOTHER JUDE February 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    Great piece of writing, these daft notions are really nothing new. Remember how we were assured that our Persil or Daz were `biological`, whatever that meant? Now we are guaranteed they are `non biological`. Likewise we are told our mouthwash is definitely alcohol free. Must be for Pioneers.

    • paddykool February 26, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

      Ta for the thumb s up AJ…