Originally published in the December/January issue of Belle but unavailable online. Someone was asking me about this recipe and I thought I'd give it another whirl.
I really love butter. And I hate butter for that.
But I can’t stop my foolish heart. I love butter cold and softly yielding to just the slightest pressure from my tongue on a hunk of torn baguette, and I love it slippery and hot, dripping down to my elbows from a piece of lobster almost about to drop onto my tongue. I love the way it smells as it melts, and the way it works equally well with savory as well as sweet.
But is butter going to stop my foolish heart for me? I don’t love the way it clogs my arteries and cruises through my digestive system seemingly straight into my adipose tissue. That’s fat to you and me, butter-lovers, and we all need to avoid accumulating any more of that than we need to.
However, a few people have been looking at animal fats with a critical eye lately, and the news might not be as bad as you think. Most of the studies on the relationship between fats and cholesterol were done without taking the nasty trans-fats we’ve all been hearing about into account. Later studies have pointed out that, in women at least, a daily diet that includes more than 30% fat doesn’t increase your risk of heart disease or cancer despite the kind of fat you eat, saturated or unsaturated. The real danger comes from those mostly man made trans-fatty acids. Of course, once you veer up into the 50% range (and it’s kind of hard to imagine, actually), all bets are off, health-wise.
The earlier studies didn’t take fiber intake into account either. When patients at risk were put on low-fat diets, their intake of fruit and vegetables went way up. Exercise was usually added as well. And their cholesterol, heart rate, and blood pressure went down. The control groups, left to their own devices, skipped the exercise, and most of the fruit and vegetables. Was it the amount of fat that changed things or the addition of other lifestyle changes? “The conclusion of an analysis of the history and politics behind the diet-heart hypothesis,” stated the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004, “was that after 50 years of research, there was no evidence that a diet low in saturated fat prolongs life.”