Occasionally, I see writing prompts that urge people to write a letter imparting advice to a younger version of themselves as a way to reflect on their current values. For the longest time, I thought my advice would be simple: "Generally, don't yuck someone else's yum."
I think most of us, in one way or another, go through that sardonic phase where we're armed with pithy barbs or withering looks ready to be leveled against anything deemed too mainstream or basic. As a child of the suburbs, I had a particularly polarized relationship with the trappings of both middle-class housewives and "Jersey Shore"-inspired mall rats — frothy pop music, pink Starbucks drinks, the heady patchouli-plum scent of Ed Hardy's "Love & Luck" perfume.
If I were writing to my younger self, I'd tell her that while it's all well and good to think critically about stuff other than hard news (and her future work would actually hinge on an ability to do so), it's not something that has to extend into one's personal life — especially if you're going to be a self-satisfied jerk about it. In fact, it's freeing to let most of that cynicism go.
I'd tell her that she would grow up and like some stuff that is not objectively hip or cutting-edge, such as deep-fried ravioli, a jokey network series about mini-golf called "Holey Moley" and the entirety of Billy Joel's catalog. I'd recount the story of the waiter who embarrassed me (us?) at dinner because I ordered a glass of Malbec, a choice he sneeringly derided as "so two years ago." I'd tell her to read "Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We have to Offer" by Rax King.
Basically, up until recently, I thought I'd have concluded the letter by saying as long as something that someone enjoys isn't hurting other people, let it be. That is, until I received another butter board-themed email.
For the uninitiated, butter boards are almost exactly what they sound like: wooden or marble boards smeared with butter. Sometimes, the butter is flavored or decorated with caramelized cloves, garlic or delicate edible flowers. Other times, it's just a sea of milky yellow meant to be eaten with toast tips or crackers.
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Initially, I wasn't opposed to the trend. Salon Food readers know how much I love good butter and compound butters — especially miso butter. In some ways, it felt like a natural extension of the charcuterie board trend, which has already been pushed to the absolute outer bounds of its definition. If there can be French fry boards and waffle boards, why not a butter board?
Well, it's because of what comes after.
Last week, within hours of the New York Times running the article "Butter Boards Are In. Spread the Word," I received my first non-butter board pitch from an eager PR professional who informed me that if I like butter boards, a hummus board would absolutely delight me. Another company promised me that peanut butter — smeared across a marble tile and topped with various jams — was the next big thing.
When I received an email about a sour cream and salsa board, I was reminded of the popular subreddit r/WeWantPlates. Users of the forum post ridiculous, real-life ways in which their food has been plated by a restaurant. A quick scan of their "Hall of Fame" gives you a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about: fried ravioli hung on a miniature clothesline, nachos served in a tableside sink, pizza balanced on a tire. The most infamous preparations are those that sacrifice the taste or texture of the food itself, such as smashing French fries into the bottom of a wide-mouth goblet and covering them with steaming hamburger sliders so that any crispness they may have had promptly turns flaccid.
I don't want to scrape hummus or peanut butter from a board like a snowplow tackling an expansive winter street.
I don't want to scrape hummus or peanut butter from a board like a snowplow tackling an expansive winter street. I'm not a stickler for tradition, but those foods aren't typically eaten that way for a reason. Hummus is best when a little creamy and drizzled with good olive oil (the kind that would run right off that board). Peanut butter is tastier anywhere than when served on a slab of wood. Want a way to serve sour cream and salsa? Companies ranging from Crate and Barrel to Guzzini have you covered.
Looking for something even cuter? Simply Google "little bowls." Spoon all manner of things into them to your heart's content.
That being said, I'm still not here to shame anyone for enjoying the butter/not-butter board trend. You just probably won't catch me participating. As for the advice I'd offer my younger self, I'd have to update it thusly: "Generally, don't yuck other people's yum (but don't be afraid to personally find something more delicious)."
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