The Origins of Butter

Apr 24, 2014 by

The Origins of Butter

This article was written by Samuel Phineas Upham

Food historians speculate that butter was an accidental creation. The theory goes that ancient horse riders may have found the substance after their milk jugs were jostled and neglected by the day’s ride. When they would have opened the containers, they would have found fresh churned cream.

Butter didn’t immediately catch on. The ancient Greeks and Romans were primarily olive oil cultures, so they rarely cooked with butter. The Italians too were slow to catch on, waiting until the fifteenth century to embrace butter as a part of their cooking.

The Vikings did enjoy butter, and probably passed a love of the stuff down to the nations they conquered. This was partly due to the kind of conquests they took, namely ones that included green lands with vast pastures. Since cattle thrived well in those cultures, butter naturally caught on as part of cooking.

By the sixteenth century, the French had begun what would be a long love affair with butter. Almost a third of recipes recovered from that era recommend adding butter at some point in the cooking process.

Butter also factored into some mythmaking around the ancient world. Hindu Indians felt butter symbolized purity, particularly when the butter was clarified into ghee. Ghee was believed to be churned from the oceans of the world as the gods churned them into existence. Even today, worshippers still adorn statues of the gods Vishnu and Krishna with milk and ghee butter as offerings.

Samuel Phineas Upham

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Samuel Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Samuel Phineas Upham on his Facebook page.

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