LONDON – Imagine you were a stick of butter in 2022.
The beginning of the year would have been ordinary enough. But around summer, things would have got chaotic.
Your price in Britain would have begun to climb dramatically enough – 30 per cent – to make headlines and to become a talking point in the cost-of-living crisis.
In autumn, people in the United States would worry you had become too expensive ahead of prime baking season.
But the year’s most unexpected twist would have been when you found yourself spread on all manner of non-food surfaces and headlining an unlikely food trend: the butter board.
Indeed, TikTok enthusiasts made it a very big year for butter. They showed the world innumerable ways to serve the dairy product, first by swirling it around on some version of a board, then by adding garnishes that ranged from appetising – radishes, toast – to ridiculous, such as unripe strawberries.
I am a butter fanatic. It was, in fact, the behind-the-scenes star of the best dishes I ate this year, from the browned butter that takes a chocolate tart over the top at Perilla in London, to the melted stream pulling together the salted egg dressing that flavours fried chicken at Brooklyn’s Pecking House.
It is just the absurdity of a butter board as a new holiday party trick that makes it untenable to me.
A pile of good butter with accoutrements certainly has a place on a restaurant table – the trend seems to have officially got its start via chef Joshua McFadden in Oregon. He created butter-slathered planks for farm dinners as a way to highlight seasonal ingredients and different breads.
It is fine when you are at a table with people you have chosen to eat with, as well as a great opportunity to show off the outstanding varieties of butter available on store shelves. And, yes, it is a less expensive way to outfit a board than with cheese or charcuterie.
But the concept of putting out a platter of room-temperature butter(s) at a party and having innumerable people coming through and swiping? It is hard to think of something less palatable – not to mention hygienic – than that. And then there is the issue of cleaning up the greasy mess afterwards.
I like this one idk I’m in a silly goofy butter mood
But, some will ask, is TikTok the real problem? Isn’t the trending agent which is at fault here?
I say no. TikTok is responsible for proliferating any number of bad food trends – just this year, it spread the word about Nyquil-infused sleepy chicken and healthy Coke. And for creating time-sucking, viral videos touting “pink sauce” and “it’s a chicken salad”.
Still, I believe it is also a powerful force for good in the food world. It will remind people of the early days of the Food Network television channel in the 1990s. Early food TV stars in general got the public excited to talk about food, and interested in the process of preparing it, in a way that had not happened since the heyday of Julia Child.
Still not over the #butterboard trend (Original idea by Joshua McFadden via Justine Snacks) ? #pumpkinbutter #brownbutter #butterboards #pumpkinseason #recipes
And by extension, home cooking became a much more popular pastime.
Likewise, TikTok has spurred a new generation of people to make dishes they might have once just ordered in, and to create content with it.
The Dalgona coffee viral trend was a great way to get people excited about instant coffee when resources were limited in the early days of the pandemic. Baked feta pasta is a legitimate delicious and simple way to make a cheese and tomato sauce for noodles.
Just, please, not the butter board. BLOOMBERG
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MCI (P) 076/10/2022, MCI (P) 077/10/2022. Published by SPH Media Limited, Co. Regn. No. 202120748H. Copyright © 2022 SPH Media Limited. All rights reserved.