I remember spending several evenings when I was a kid watching my mom make dinner. I don't remember what exactly drew me in, but judging by my vivid memories, I enjoyed it.
I remember my mom making a roux in a red, heavy-bottomed sauce pan. It was one of those pans that had very specific duties in our kitchen, and spotting it on the stove meant mom was making a cheese sauce she'd turn into tuna casserole. The dish is still one of my favorites, and probably without even knowing it, my mom also taught me how to make a great mac and cheese.
One particular evening when I was in elementary school, I remember watching my mom melt butter (OK, that's what we called it, but it was really margarine. It was the 1980s and my mom was a cardiac nurse. Sweet cream unsalted never stood a chance in our house.) in the red pan. The yellow tub sat on the counter crowded between the stove and the fridge. As she used a wooden spoon to move around the melting butter, I asked why we never ate butter by itself.
I have no idea what exactly she said to me, but I remember that she put some on a spoon and told me to eat it. I did. A spoonful of yellow margarine. While I can't remember what happened next, I'm guessing that my mom had a matter-of-fact, "Now do you understand?" response.
What I do remember quite clearly is that from that exact moment I understood that some foods were merely meant to make other foods tastier. This sounds simple when you use an example like butter, but think about all the things we keep in our pantries that are waiting not to take the glory themselves but to let some other food shine. Think of salt, garlic, spices and sweeteners.
I consider this tiny moment one of the first in my culinary education. Whether it was the quirky question or my mom's genius response, it's stuck with me for decades. I was reminded of it this weekend when I made some whipped honey butter and Seth, jokingly, asked me if he could eat it alone.
Instead, we enjoyed it slightly warm and easily spread on potato rolls. It was delicious with our oven-fried chicken, mac and cheese and green bean salad. I was happy to let the butter do its job, making by store-bought rolls into something special.
1 stick of butter
Approx. 1/4 cup honey
Let a stick of butter sit out on the counter until softened. Place in mixer or bowl with a hand held mixer. Add honey to desired sweetness. Beat butter and honey until combined. Use immediately or fill molds and chill.