The original tagline of my blog was: I Got an Apartment in Paris So I Could Buy the Butter. This is not me being clever; it’s the deep-down, primal, driving truth. Years ago on one of my visits to the City of Lights, a friend drove me to the Paris suburbs, to a mammoth Carrefour—a store rather like Walmart, but with a grocery full of French foods, which meant an inexpensive gourmet experience for this American gal. I stocked up on canned and packaged goodies to take back to New York, but when I came across the sausages, cheeses, patés and other US Customs contraband, I experienced a longing like no other, the kind that makes a person hatch illegal schemes. But it was in the dairy aisle where longing grew to frustration, desperation. Butter! Rows and rows of butter—huge economy-sized bundles of fresh, delicious French butter. Varietal, regional, salted, sweet, honey-infused. It was a dairy fairyland. As I fondled a block of butter from the Brittany region, I flashed on a memory from my first trip to Paris as a girl: the taste of the creamy butter we slathered on our breakfast baguettes. Fresh, sweet—and when coupled with bitter orange marmalade—heavenly.
“You can’t bring that on the plane.” My friend yanked the butter from my hands, breaking my spell. I whimpered and pawed the foil-wrapped treasures on the shelf as I walked away. I vowed I would buy that butter, dammit, one way or another.
You might think it an extreme measure to buy an apartment in Paris merely to be able to bring home the butter, but ten years later, in a grocery store on Avenue Phillippe-Auguste, when I saw the same brand of butter I’d coveted in Carrefour, I knew I’d done the right thing. I reached for that brass ring and celebrated as I put it in my shopping cart. My buttery prize, mine all mine, finally mine.
TRIVIA AU BEURRE: There is a French expression, “Avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre,” meaning to have the butter and sell the butter, roughly the equivalent of “to have your cake and eat it, too.” It’s what you say to a person who can’t make a choice. For me, the choice is an easy one; everything is better with butter.