One of my favorite movies of all time is Rosemary’s Baby, still as chilling and brilliantly acted and directed as it was almost 50 years ago when it debuted. A favorite line in the movie has a modern relevance regarding food.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow), as you should know, becomes pregnant after moving into an old gothic apartment building on Central Park. On the advice of her doctor, she begins drinking a fresh, healthy milkshake every day, mixed and delivered by her next door neighbor, Minnie Castavet (Ruth Gordon deservedly won an Oscar for this role). According to Minnie, the shake contains raw egg, gelatin, herbs, and something called Tannis Root.
Rosemary, along with the audience, slowly begins to suspect there is a conspiracy to steal or harm her baby. Famously, very little happens in the movie yet it ruthlessly crawls under the skin. The ordinary becomes terrifying as we wonder if something is actually happening or if Rosemary’s imagination is running wild.
When the book (1967) and the movie (1968) were each released, both phenomenal hits, our country and much of the world was in the midst of a decades long embrace of chemically created food over natural: formula over breast milk, margarine or oleo over butter, Saccharin and corn syrup instead of sugar, boxed food over food made from scratch, etc, etc. It seems so obvious now that something natural would be healthier than something created in a lab. But given years of misinformation and outright lies from both the government and food corporations, there was no reason for the public to believe otherwise. (I really despise the FDA, a rant I’ll reserve for another post.)
What’s fascinating today about Rosemary’s Baby is that the shake, made from natural ingredients, is one of the creepiest things in the movie. It becomes a focal point and a source of fear for the audience, and then Rosemary herself. A knot begins to form in our stomachs every time Rosemary takes a sip. As her paranoia increases, she finally snaps and revolts against what she perceives is being done to her. Rosemary then delivers the line I love:
“I want my vitamins from pills, like everyone else!”
Crafted and created in a lab is what was healthy and normal to audiences at the time. Natural was not. Even with our modern perspective, we are thrilled when Rosemary takes this stand. Is she too late? Is anything actually wrong? You’ll have to watch this brilliant movie to find out. (Note: It’s free if you have Amazon prime… the movie is gorgeously shot by William Fraker so try to watch it on a big screen!)
We are thankfully moving away from the days of margarine and corn syrup (lies, LIES!) and the idea that crafted in a lab is good for you. We have returned to the wonderful knowledge that something as simple and wonderful as butter can be enjoyed without the guilt that was thrust upon us for years. It actually is healthy!
Yet true, decadent butter is still hard to find, at least in the USA, thank you FDA. Years ago I was in Italy and ate at a small family owned hotel/restaurant on a farm. After I sat down, they brought me bread and butter. I tasted the butter on the bread and thought my head would explode. I’d never tasted anything so good. I called the owner over and in my very broken Italian kept asking him, ‘What is this??” He kept shrugging and saying, “It’s butter.” I kept saying, “No, this is NOT butter.” He became frustrated and looked at me like a stupid American and finally threw up his hands. “It’s just butter!” I realized later it was butter that had been churned that very day, with no pasteurization. My goodness, was that incredible butter, so different than what we buy in most stores.
I’ve recently discovered you can make such butter at home, fast, without a churn! All you need is some heavy (whipping) cream and a food processor. With basically no effort at all, you will have fresh, incredible butter. Give this a try (and let me know what you think!)
For the recipe, click here:
1 cup whipping cream (I always double this to 2 cups)
- Pour the cream into the food processor. Turn it on.
- Wait. And listen: In about 2 minutes, the cream will start to turn into whipped cream. You can hear the change. (This is actually a great way to make whipped cream for desserts.) You could stop now if you want fresh whipped cream but let it keep going.
- In 2 or 3 more minutes (4 or 5 total) you will hear another change as the mixture gets even thicker. What is happening now is the whipped cream is separating into butter and buttermilk.
- After this change in sound, stop the food processor. You should have a lot of fresh butter, with liquid around the butter and on the bottom. This is the buttermilk. (If it needs a little more time, just turn it back on.)
- Dump the contents into a fine mesh strainer. As the buttermilk drains, take the butter in your hands and squeeze it and knead it (this is the fun part) so that even more liquid comes out. As you do this, move the butter into a bowl and continue squeezing/kneading until all the butter is out of the strainer and in the bowl.
- Voila! Homemade butter. You can add salt (I always do) and put it in whatever ramekin or container you desire. It’s ready to go but you can also stick it in the fridge to firm up a little.
- For flavored butters, add whatever you want: thyme (or any herb or combination); black pepper; garlic – fresh, sautéed or roasted; lemon zest; chives… anything! Then mix and put into your containers.
- Pour the cream into the food processor. Turn it on. In five minutes, you have butter. Strain, squeeze and enjoy.
Additional note: Check out Ruth Gordon’s wiki page and look further into her. She was a fascinating, dazzlingly talented woman, not only as an actress but as a writer. With her husband, Garson Kanin, she wrote many movies and was nominated for 3 Academy Awards for her writing, including the wildly entertaining Adam’s Rib. She’s pretty awesome herself.