Posted by / Category French food, Stereotypes /

Do you know what the three secret ingredients of French cuisine are?

Well, here it is: butter, butter and butter.

And guess what: as a result of soaring popularity of the dairy product and pastries abroad, my home country faces a massive butter shortage. Dipping your croissant in your cup of coffee might become the ultimate luxury pretty soon. What happened? How did we get there? Is it the end of the world as we know it?

Well, let me tell you something first: if you are familiar with this blog, you know that I am from Provence. In short, I am more into olive oil than butter. That’s just me. I am told that, if I were from Brittany, I would see things in a different light and become very depressed. But fear not: I am fine. Our olive trees seem to be in good shape, and my father even told me that we would get more olive oil than last year. All is well and we will survive.

That said, it looks like the butter shortage is here to stay. As apparently fatty acids are not as bad as they used to be, butter has become more and more popular. To top it up, supermarkets apparently don’t want to increase the price of butter and producers have had enough to feel the squeeze. It looks like we are in a classic price war, and eventually the consumers (that’s you and me) will have to pay more. Because that is usually how these things work, right?

Maybe we will soon have counterfeit butters from exotic places. Buyers beware! But wait: that’s already the case, right? I need to come clean here: I hadn’t noticed that there was a shortage because (shame oh shame) I buy British butter. Yep, you read that right.

When it comes to dairy, the French are commonly considered the best producers in the world, with some regions being given the protection of specific status. And when the British are looking for something special to smear on our bread they reach out for French products, because they think they are the best. Right? Well, maybe not. And British butter is cheaper in london anyway.

Apparently you need a mild and damp climate to make good butter, which is why it’s usually from Brittany or the North of France. Here is a newsflash for you: the British climate is nothing if not mild and damp – so why aren’t their dairy products held in equally high esteem?

Let’s not be snobbish here: there are lots of fabulous butters available in the UK and you don’t have to look far to find them: most supermarkets stock butter from small, local producers. This means that I can support small businesses and dairies, pay less and most probably get a better tasting product – what’s not to like?

In short, this shortage could easily be solved: get the French some British butter, and all will be well. Alternatively, you can also make your own butter. I am told that it is easier than it sounds: butter is made from pasteurised cream with a fat content of around 40%. You need to churn it to separate the liquid from the fat. Prills of fat are formed in a liquid which is then drained off.  The remaining prills of fat are then washed and worked to create a smooth texture before salt is added and the butter is shaped. Hmmm….I think that I will keep buying my butter.

But let’s be honest here: I wish all shortages would be so easy to stop. What do you think?

  • It’s almost the revolution in Britanny! I’m thinking of shipping my family and friends Irish butter, just in case…Joke apart, I am so glad to live in a country where salted butter is the norm, I don’t know how I would have survived without it ( Breton people love their butter, it’s definitely not a cliché!!!!)

    • I hope the shortage doesn’t last…Surely they can import butter from elsewhere? Anyway, for once we are the lucky ones, right?

  • Ronald

    Danish Lurpak would always be the brand of butter I would choose (advertising from childhood I’m afraid) if money was no object but as far as unsalted goes I do like even more President (France) which is my favourite but a very rare treat and not available at my local stores, or even Anchor (NZ) on my “tartines” and toast….However as money’s (or I am) tight I usually buy Olive Oil spreads which do spread:-) even better than spreadable butter!…

    • I buy the cheapest possible butter as I honestly can’t tell the difference with other brands (yes, despite being French!). And I love olive oil. In fact, I use it all the time. I haven’t tried the spray. Maybe I should…

  • Jacqueline

    And Ironically in this little corner of Maine (northeast USA), I just bought le Presdient! Usually I buy American butter but when I want a treat I’ll splurge for French butter. I use to have to buy it in a specialty store but now? nope! right here in a regular US supermarket. LOL

    • Impressive! Nobody can find President butter in France but you can in Maine! Wow! We do live in a global world. How is American butter? Any good?

  • James Casserly

    Personally I think Irish butter is the best in the world, but then again I would, wouldn’t I? Whatever happened to the butter mountain and milk lake the EEC used to have? Perhaps the French can get emergency supplies there? As long as they don’t replace the butter with margarine.

    • They won’t replace butter with margarine. I suspect that they don’t want to sell ‘foreign’ butter. I might be wrong. Oh, and I haven’t tried Irish butter!

  • Avory † Blonde

    Butter c’est magnifique. I don’t know who invented margarine. It was all I ate when young. It is disgusting and unhealthy.