Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Calling On The Butter Fairy

Norway is suffering a killer butter shortage during the holiday season. This is tragic because Norwegian cuisine in its entirety uses only seven ingredients: butter, cream, flour, potatoes, sugar, codfish, and oven cleaner. And butter is the most important of these for a number of reasons. All dishes owe their structural integrity to butter, which keeps the flour molecules apart. Also, native Norwegians are genetically blessed with massive circulatory systems featuring arteries the size of road culverts, and butter keeps the blood from making knocking sounds as it ricochets through the tubes. Norwegians are stalwart people of sturdy temperament who are not apt to blow over in a stiff breeze, but they're rattled. Without butter the entire collective digestive system of Norway will founder and flake.

In spite of the limited number of ingredients, there is much variety in Norwegian cuisine. Lefse is produced with cream, butter, sugar, and potato. After it is rolled up with more butter and sugar, it is slightly crisp and beige. The potato substitutes for vegetables. Fattigman features more cream than butter but the loss is made up in deep-fat frying; it is somewhat more crisp and darker beige. Cardamom substitutes for vegetables. Krumkake, made of butter, sugar and flour, is beige and very crisp indeed, due to its being cooked on a special griddle. An ornate design stamped onto the krumkake from the griddle substitutes for vegetables. The much-prized gelatinous, soapy and light-beige lutefisk does not require much butter except at the table, where, in sufficient quantities, it masks the flavor of the oven cleaner. Nausea substitutes for vegetables.

In short, it should be possible to invent a cow attachment that could deliver 90% of Norway's culinary repertoire straight from the cow to the plate, but it does not exist, because Norwegian people are not lazy. What appears to be torpor is just a combination of inoffensiveness and deep satisfaction, and the satisfaction is because of the butter.

It was a perfect storm of political, economical, and natural events that produced the butter shortage in Norway.  Demand spiked due to the popularity of healthier low-carb diets wherein some of the potato is swapped out for butter. Climate change ushered in excessive dampness that demoralized the cows. And steep tariffs discouraged imports from butter-rich countries. With citizens willing to fork over up to $32 per pound of butter, a black market has arisen. Several butter smugglers have been apprehended crossing over from Sweden (of course, Sweden), but it's a slick operation. A suspected smuggling tunnel from Denmark was discovered only when it clogged up.

There is no butter shortage in the United States, but that's not my husband's fault. Dave came home a few weeks ago with a starter set of twenty-four pounds of butter and began his annual three-week round-the-clock production of almond roca, which he will distribute in decorative tins to good men and women the world over. Many who regret kicking Santa to the curb of childhood are now fervent about the Butter Fairy, and they anticipate his arrival with clenched capillaries. It's said that he's tall and he's stealthy and he creeps onto your porch like an embolism in the night. Believe it.

49 comments:

  1. Tell the butter fairy to bar his door in defence against the avenging vikings who will surely be there to retrieve their lost butter!
    BTW, sorry to be nosey but is your couch Stickley?

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  2. You don't paint a very appetizing picture of the Norwegian diet. What does a lactose intolerant Norwegian do for food?
    If the butter fairy wants to leave cookies on my porch I'll leave the light on for him.

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  3. Butter is the best part of almost every sweet thing. I have now heard of lefse from several of my blogging friends and I'm beginning to think I'm being stalked. Maybe I'd better taste some. I also would leave the light on for the Butter Fairy...

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  4. Being from MN, a Norwegian-y place if ever there was one, I'm here to affirm that everything you've just said is true -- or close enough to true in that delightfully embroidered way you have. I once ate a Christmas meal at a former boyfriend's parents' house that was entirely in the white/beige color spectrum.

    We broke up later, but not because of the lutefisk.

    "... and oven cleaner," she says. Why I oughta...

    Pearl

    Pearl

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  5. Can someone explain the virtues of olive oil and fresh produce to the Norwegians?

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  6. The shortage has caused some instability in the Norwegian government. I think butter is a integral part of the infrastructure. I'm pretty sure I heard that at the Fisketorget (fish market) in Bergen. Dave doesn't need to put mine in a fancy tin when a cardboard box, well sealed of course, will do.

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  7. Excuse me while I go stack up all my butter. I thought I had enough on hand, but now I'm feeling pretty inadequate. I know if I check my inbox I'll see a bunch of e-mails with the subject line "how does your butter stack up?" and "is your butter pile large enough?"

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  8. a starter set of 24#? that is a good man.

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  9. Also, the picture of 24 cans of V8 next to 24 pounds of butter is swell.

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  10. I may have to move to Norway. But I'll wait until the butter shortage is over.

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  11. Mmmm... butter... I don't think I have any Norwegian roots but I do have veins the size of culverts. Also, given the opportunity and a temporary departure from my attempts at healthy eating, I'll eat slices of cold butter as if it was cheese. Which, really, it is, when you think about it. Soft, dilute cheese. Cheese is a vegetable, right?

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  12. Butter tastes so good, but it is not on my diet. I heard a lady from Norway say that they can eat anything they want because they walk everywhere. Few people have cars and it takes two years to even qualify for a driver's license.

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  13. "Several butter smugglers have been apprehended crossing over from Sweden (of course, Sweden)."

    We saw a tender little Holiday flick last night--the US version of "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." I put absolutely nothing past Sweden. I'm going to have to bust a gut to get rid of the gloom hangover by the 25th.

    God Jul, Brewsters!

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  14. I was vastly relieved when the dietary experts discovered butter is actually good for you. I got to give up margarine.

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  15. I cannot believe you are not sponsoring a giveaway of some almond roca! Cruel to tantalize us like that...

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  16. I'd like to sign up for the distribution please.

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  17. Sub, oooh, that's a good idea! Wouldn't I have to have some kind of weird contest? Hmm. Next year.

    origa-me, yes, it's Stickley. Good eye.

    Delores, the Butter Fairy doesn't do cookies. The Butter Fairy tried to make cookies once, whomping stuff together as he does regular cooking, and he just used sugar and butter and flour. No baking soda or anything like that. We called them Sugar Pucks.

    Djan, go ahead with the lefse, but try to tamp down your expectations. They're as good as you can get with just butter and sugar and nostalgia. The nostalgia is a key component and you probably don't have any in your pantry.

    Ahab, there is no Norwegian word for "fresh produce," so no. My uncle never ate a non-potato vegetable or salad item in his entire life and sure enough he dropped dead at 92.

    Yes, Diane, cheese is a vegetable.

    Oh, R.J., that's heaven. We visited Dresden and found all the young people with a beer in one hand and ice cream in the other, and they were all skinny, and walked EVERYwhere. My little part of Portland is getting that way, too.

    To all, it's really easy to get on Dave's list, but it's getting unmanageable and so I'm managing it for him. He Feeds The World: it's what he does. All anyone needs to do is express interest.

    And right this minute he's back out to the store for more butter. Good luck catching up with him, Kat, but if anyone can, I know you can.

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    1. Murr,
      I once went to the Tromso Fisherman's Museum and feel that salt cod deserves a little more comment. For one thing, the season for cod fishing is February and March and quaint little ol Norweigian fishermen toodle out into the black arctic winter on the black arctic Norse Sea in picturesque little row boats. They bait cute hooks used to hang oxen in the summer on long lines. When they catch cod they hauled them into the open boat and try to yank the hooks out of the flopping, roiling fish's snapping jaws. When the boat is full and about to sink, they row them back to shore where they cheerfully stand around, dripping wet, on a bunch of rocks that passes for a beach in the -30 degree F weather. They gut and salt the fish and hang their bodies on quaint little racks made of toothpicks, twigs, chewing gum and string where the light zephyrs of the sea come in at 60 miles per hour and -55 degrees F (with wind chill) and literally freeze dried the corpses into something a lot like firewood. Salt cod is completely indestructable, and can easily be used for long sea voyages, building skyscrapers and bludgeoning whales.

      I have actually eaten a stew made from salt cod. I thought it tasted good, rather like butter! The recipe goes sort of like this:
      Take a large salt cod and place it in a bath of lye. Change the water after 24 hours and make a fresh batch of lye/water to soak the fish. Repeat for 7 days.
      (I am not making this up) When the fish finally gets tender enough to be cut with a chainsaw, cooking it in broth with cream and BUTTER, and potatoes. Serve with more butter! And bread and BUTTER! Afterwards smear yourself with BUTTER and climb into a hot sauna.

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  18. I saw the butter news from Norway and I thought, there's a murr* in this, I know there is!

    *murr, subst: a blog confection that can be enjoyed as a light gaiety or a mordant analysis: taken at intervals with a grain of salt, said to relieve environmental and political angst and to promote regularity. Used in shadowed corners of the United States as a substitute for sunlight.

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  19. Love it. Thank you. We have used more than our fair share of butter here preparing for Christmas. I have to ask - is Dave holding the cat to protect the produce, or for the cat's comfort. Our black babies Jazz n Jewel show an unhealthy interest in butter.

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  20. I adore butter, as did my German-born mother. Can't get enough of it. And it makes me feel really good! not like margarine, which gives me gas.
    Lutefisk is plain inedible, and uncookable, too. Nothing ever happens. It stays the same rubbery texture and has the same horble odor. Some people can do it, but not me.

    I love krumkake, too. Still have my mother's iron.

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  21. I only bake cookies for the holidays, and I use lots of butter. I therefor propose an East Coast/West Coast trade: some of my cookies for some of Dave's goodies. Yum! Elaine in Arlington

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  22. Simon Nicol - me again...December 21, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    There's worse...
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-16266520

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  23. But isn't the main ingredient of butter the grass? Ergo, butter itself is a vegetable. Who needs anything else?

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  24. The Norwegian diet sounds a lot like my family roots (German)...yum...almond roca...what were we talking about again?

    Merry Christmas, Murr!

    Wendy

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  25. It might be my old country (German), Wisconsin dairy farm roots, but I think cheese, butter, et cetera are the staff of life. I would rather the Butter Fairy come instead of Santa!

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  26. Norweigans have been identified as the happiest, most healthy people on the planet. In deference to them, I have single-handedly consumed a lb of butter.

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  27. I make stollen for the holiday and use lots of butter. I don't think you can make a good cookie if you don't use butter. Christmas time when I was young we always had lute fish and all the other white stuff that goes with it. Loganberries added some color.

    Merry Christmas.

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  28. Xtreme, I think I've got my mom's krumkake iron too, but I've never made it.

    Elephant, Dave is preventing the cat from batting all the tins off the table. For some reason Tater is not tempted by any edible item. She clamors for her half-cup of Costco kibble every day and that's it. The previous cat, Larry, taught us to put the butter in the fridge.

    Simon, deep-fried butter is a state fair staple here!

    Boomerlane, really? My relatives are plenty happy and I think I get my temperament from that side, since the Brewster side is pretty gloomy. Way to go on the butter.

    Blue Ridge. Stollen. Oh yes, I remember. I know loganberries are the same as partridgeberries but I don't think we get them here.

    Kay, you'd make out like a bandit here. Santa Claus quit showing up last year and it's Butter Fairy all the way.

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  29. Almond Roca? Almond Roca? Did someone say that? Hello! Over here! Can you see me??? Waving my arms frantically??

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  30. Wow! how much chocolate and how many lbs of almonds did he go through as well? Do people bring back the tins every year or does he have to hunt and gather those as well? I am gobsmacked! I mean, I just did a whackload of Christmas baking and only used 4 lbs of butter so far (mind you, the shortbreads aren't made yet). Dave, a tip of the Santa hat to you.

    Murr, love the beige food descriptions. It might almost be a Scottish diet except my family added something orange in the form of turnip.

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  31. I love the American Butter Fairy! And I feel it is my obligation to utter: "Go Sweden!" Duty done.

    In Sweden, cows wear bras in the winter, and I think it keeps the butter coming for the intense Christmas baking that goes on there. Norwegian cows burned their bras in a protest back in the day. Not surprisingly, Scandinavia finally finds itself in a situation that forces socialist Swedish cows to carry the burden of lazy socialist Norwegian cows. If only they had hoof straps by which they could pull themselves up.

    And I love the American Butter Fairy. Again.

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  32. Which is why, Vivi, we let you sully the Norwegian brand. Also, we half-Norwegians are partly inoffensive and fairly satisfied.

    Tiff, thank you for "whackload." To brain: installation complete.

    Dale? Stand by for ALL my future book blurbs.

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  33. Thank you for your interest in our so-called "butter-crisis". The truth is that the low-carb folly (of which about 90% of the people is totally fed up with), is just part of the problem. the rest is due to the near monopoly held by the company "Tine". They were originally a farmer's cooperative that should both secure the nation's supply of milk and get decent prices for it. Now the ties to the farmers have been almost severed, and it acts more like any other company with a near monopoly on a commodity: To hell with the consumers - we want your money!

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  34. Think about this. There are even fewer (are there any?) Norwegian cuisine cookbooks on store shelves than English cuisine (choke) cookbooks. THAT should be all you need to know.

    Butter, otoh, really is the nectar of the couch-potato (I know this by extensive testing), which efficiently combines most of Norwegian cooking right there.

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  35. Would Dave consider next year exchanging a tin of almond rosa for a tin of rum balls?

    The trick with lutefisk is a really good curry sauce. It shorts out your tastebuds and then all you have to do is work past the texture. It is NOT like snot. Not! Not - - hurk - - not at all.

    I am half Norwegian,and getting that all-beige look already. My hair is going grey, my face is going pale, my eyebrows are so anemic as to seem non-existent, and the lips are pale and withered as turnip slices left outside for three days. Put me in a white blouse, and all you can see are pale blue irises floating in the murk.

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  36. Being descended from Norwegians, I love all the traditional Scandanavian treats--except lutefisk.
    Butter is the food of the gods!

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  37. Great butter story! My husbands family came from Sweden. At Christmas we make many batches of Thin Bread. It is rather tasteless, but is wonderful when topped with a thick spread of butter.

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  38. Good grief, I'm too nauseous to type now. Perhaps a little of that deep fried antacid would help?

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  39. LOL! You're funny!
    I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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  40. OMG. A tall, handsome man that makes Almond Roca too ???

    My ex always said that God invented potatoes so there'd be something to eat our butter on....

    I'm a butter girl all the way....

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  41. And here all this time I was thinking that butter was mined from the great butter mines in Southern France!?!

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  42. Lefse!!! I use to love Lefse.... but it is not in markets where I live... I will have to go to Minnietosa and get some!

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  43. I believe butter is still ok. It's got to be balanced with fish oil and some red wine. Lot's of walking and bike riding too!
    Enjoy the festivities.

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  44. Robert, that's CHEESE you're thinking of.

    Bill, word. If you're going to do a body, you should use butter.

    RuneE, thanks for the update. I hate to hear about that kind of shenanigans. Is nothing sacred?

    Carol, I think I've got a Norwegian cookbook, but it's one of those thingies that the ladies of the Lutheran church stapled together.

    Roxie, your Norwegian half is a lot taller than my half. Together we make one complete lopsided Norwegian.

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  45. Geiger would lick the butter then bat tins all over the place.
    Not as obsessive a baker as Dave, but there's a mince pie for you at my place!
    Got Jul!

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  46. Oh no! How are the Norwegians managing this crisis? And on Christmas too!!!

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