‘In The World of Love-Affairs There are Many’

Credit: Robin Breeding

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In the world of love-affairs there are many. From ancient times there is Antony and Cleopatra. From cinema there is Rick and Ilsa of Casablanca fame. And from my childhood there is Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Headed Girl. Yet, the love-affair that transcends each of these, that remains with me despite my efforts to break away, that is not an obsession but rather a healthy longing for an ounce of sweetness in my daily life, is my never-ending love with butter.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not even a nutritionist. And, yes, there are 204 calories in just one ounce. What I am, however, is a person who likes to eat and who, when the spirit moves me, enjoys cooking as well. So, the other night when my wife, who is as smooth as butter and just as sweet, asked me to make dinner, I obliged. Nothing fancy, just turkey burgers. That’s right, turkey burgers because if it walked on four legs it rarely makes it to our dinner table. However, if it flew, or attempted to do so, or thought that in another life it might have flown, then break out the wine, turn on the stove, grease the skillet and get to work.

A burger, whether it flew or walked when it was a living breathing thing, isn’t much by itself.  A burger needs help. It needs flavor. Salt and pepper are a good place to begin, but for me it’s what I put on the burger that turns a dry piece of meat into a luscious meal. Speaking of luscious, my mother thought herself to be quite a good chef. If you asked her how something she cooked tasted, she would automatically respond by saying, “Luscious!” Like me, she knew when she was right.

Back in my kitchen, I took out the cast-iron skillet, sliced an onion, and did the same to a couple of handfuls of mushrooms. I turned on the stove, dropped the onion and the mushrooms into the skillet, and added that not so secret ingredient, that only a few days before was nothing more than a cup of milk, but somehow, magically, through a process known as agitation, morphed into a delicious chunk of butter.

Minutes later, my sweet buttercup of a wife, noticing that the oversized jar of olive oil remained untouched, gave me the look (not a friendly one) and said, “Seriously?” What could I do but respond with the truth. “It’s just a little butter,” I said, as she walked away, focused more on the next Jeopardy clue then on the second chunk of butter I added to the mushrooms and onions that were nearly done and delicious. Oops, I mean luscious.

With part one of the meal complete, I moved on to part two. I emptied the skillet to make room for the burgers but noticed that the vegetables had sucked up nearly every drop of melted butter. What could I do but add an even larger chunk to fry the burgers?

Things began to sizzle quickly. Jeopardy had ended and just one contestant and I correctly answered the final clue: In this nation of 360,000 people, you can walk along the boundaries of the Eurasian & North American tectonic plates. Iceland, of course.

How perfect it would have been if the Final Jeopardy clue was about butter: Much maligned, but possessing several health benefits, this creamy milk product makes everything taste better.

Dinner was served. The scent of grilled onions filled the air. I watched carefully as my wife took her first bite, thinking perhaps it might be followed by a compliment. It was not.  Another bite and the silence continued. Desperate for affirmation, I forced the obvious. “How do you like your burger?” I asked. “It’s good,” she said, and then I took a bite of my own. It wasn’t just good; it was, as Mom would say, luscious, despite an overabundance of saturated fat which makes up 63% of butter.

Did it melt in my mouth? Sort of. Did it clog my arteries?  Who cares; I take a statin. Did it make me wonder which side of my bread was buttered and by whom? Not even a little.

Like getting Final Jeopardy right when everyone else gets it wrong, it simply made me feel good.  And that’s more than enough to make me want to eat it again and again and again.