Who’s Going to Help Us Cook Our Favorite Fatty Foods Now?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 19 2012 3:42 PM

Who Will Grab the Butter Baton?

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Paula Deen in October 2011 in New York City.

Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Paula Deen’s fans may have wanted to start butter-bawling their eyes out on Tuesday when she announced on the Today Show that she has Type 2 diabetes (a revelation that has sparked a broader conversation about food, gender, and class). Deen is now emphasizing eating in moderation (which she says she’s always done) and creating healthier versions of her butter-rich recipes for a new website sponsored (somewhat controversially) by diabetes drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk.

But Deen’s diabetes announcement doesn’t mean butter lovers are just going to drop their favorite ingredient for some Smart Balance. After all, our culture has found butter irresistible since long before Deen came along. (Julia Child, anyone?) Other butter-loving chefs include Guy Fieri (when the butter hits the road), Ina Garten (barefoot butter), and Nigella Lawson (Brits love butter).

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If Deen really does cut back a bit on the cholesterol sticks, I suspect she will merely pass the butter baton. To whom, you ask?

A clear frontrunner is Ree Drummond, the Oklahoma rancher’s wife who has garnered a huge following with her self-deprecating blog Confessions of a Pioneer Woman, her cookbook, and her show on the Food Network, which began its new season on January 14.

Drummond, who became a sushi devotee while at USC, now is known for her step-by-step photo tutorials for her recipes, many of which include copious amounts of butter and cream.

And like Deen, Drummond makes no apologies for her butter usage. She calls herself a “lover of butter and Ethel Merman” on her official Facebook page, and she ran a blog contest this past June asking her readers to guess how many pounds of butter she used in the 15 days spent filming the first season of her cooking show.

The answer? A grand total of 121 pounds, or 484 sticks. That’s a lot of butter.

But it’s not hard to see where it all went. A batch of her cinnamon rolls calls for “2 cups melted butter, plus more as needed.” For her “Fresh Corn Casserole with Red Bell Peppers and Jalapenos,” you must douse the vegetables in a stick of butter, a cup of heavy cream, and a half cup of milk. You don’t even want to look at the butter content of her mashed potatoes.

Drummond’s tough-guy husband is also, not surprisingly, firmly in the pro-butter camp. An episode of The Pioneer Woman from last season showed him making beef tenderloin cooked in pans of butter on the grill.

Drummond’s butter rule of thumb: Once you think there’s enough, go ahead and drizzle on some more. Which—given its resemblance to the Pauladeenism “Can’t have too much melted butter”—ought to make Deen fans rest a little easier (a good thing: quality sleep can reportedly help fight the weight gain that could result from eating so much butter).

Anna Weaver is a writer living in the Seattle area. She is originally from Kailua, Hawaii.