November 27, 2002

Tomorrow Jeanne d’Arc, of Body and Soul, and her daughter will join together in a longstanding family tradition of making butter for Thanksgiving dinner.

It will be only the d’Arcs’ second year of pursuing this ancient craft. But as Mlle. d’Arc emphasizes, they’re Californians, which would make their two-year tradition something like a 78-year-old ritual for real Americans.

It warmed my heart to read of this mother-daughter bonding activity. (I’m assuming it is, or has a decent chance of being, a bonding activity. The way many mothers and daughters get along, the whole thing could well turn into a disaster for both parties. And the butter.)

But I couldn’t help but wonder whether Mlle. d’Arc and her daughter had butter paddles on hand to prepare the finished product for the table.

Regular readers of |||trr||| know that I rarely cook. They assuredly do not know -- nor would they surmise -- that I own a fine set of wooden butter paddles, a treasured gift from a friend.

To these readers it will be no surprise that visitors to my apartment who, for whatever reason, happen to rummage through my kitchen drawers -- usually in search of a corkscrew -- are always amazed to find the butter paddles. And to this day not a single person has been able to correctly identify these essential kitchen tools.

Butter Paddles

The paddles are not, by the way, easy to find in stores, butter paddling having become something of a lost art. In fact, I’m not even sure Martha Stewart has shared the joys of working with butter paddles with her audience.

I have to admit, though, that I have yet to use my set of paddles to their full advantage. And my ability to turn a square piece of well chilled butter into a small, round, grooved, and tasty ball of delight pales in comparison with the mastery demonstrated by the pantry maids at Mrs. Clark’s estate, at which I worked (not as a pantry maid) during the summer of 1981 and where I first encountered these remarkable devices.

Maybe it’s time to dig them out again. I don’t have anything else to do tomorrow.


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