Melt in the mouth

Shabnam Minwalla | Updated on November 16, 2018 Published on November 16, 2018

Spread the love: Peanut butter became popular about 100 years ago in expensive American sanatoriums, as it was a protein-rich food that did not require chewing   -  ISTOCK.COM

A butter freak lists her guilty pleasures

What do you do when you have a free half-hour in the middle of the day? Take a nap? Call a friend for an aimless natter? Or read three chapters of a fizzy romance with a peppermint-pink cover and swirly font?

All these are great options. But, somehow, my favourite “timepass” is to browse the virtual aisles of online grocery stores — to gloat over the fact that you can get miso paste and dried lavender flowers at the click of a button. And that prettily packaged bhut sriracha sauces and toasted millet muesli (with dark chocolate and orange peel, no less) now arrive at our doorstep with as little fuss as mundane necessities like mops and moong dal.

Usually, I just gaze at the screen with a drooly expression. Occasionally, I put the alluring item into the virtual cart. But this once I went the whole hog — first sighing mistily, then clicking, and finally furnishing a credit card number. After which I waited eagerly for the almond butter dark chocolate to arrive.

And it did, alongside the aforementioned moong dal and mops. After which it has now been placed prettily alongside the peanut butter — extra-chunky, peanut butter spicy, apple butter and an almost-empty bottle of cookie butter. (Cookie butter is the master of the vanishing trick. I challenge any home with three children to hold onto a jar for over a week.)

All of which indicates that I am a butter freak — a true and fattening fact.

Growing up, the only butter that was available in the shops was the pale, yellow stuff that goes into sandwiches. Even that, we couldn’t take for granted. And in the era of black-and-white TV and bossy ration shops, butter regularly went off the shelves, providing our mothers with an endless source of rumours, worry and conversation.

Not that I regretted its absence overmuch. To me, the taste of butter was the flavour of gritty chicken sandwiches, sand-encrusted swimsuits and dehydrating school picnics. What I truly loved was peanut butter — a jar of which occasionally made its way to Bombay in the bulging suitcases of cousins from Philadelphia or Singapore. (Along with a couple of cans of Coke, packs of stickers and indifferent American chocolates.)

As far as I was concerned, the cousins could keep their stickers and soft drinks. What I desired was an uninterrupted supply of Chunky Skippy Peanut Butter. Like Dennis the Menace, I believed — and still do — that peanut butter is the solution to life’s problems. The lovable but naughty five-year-old subsisted on a diet of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. And when he told Gina that she “smelled better than a plateful of peanut butter samwiches”, he was paying her the ultimate compliment.

Peanut butter, as its name suggests, is a spread made from roasted peanuts. It became popular about 100 years ago in expensive American sanatoriums, as it was a protein-rich food that did not require chewing. Today it’s the staple food of bachelors, singletons and an army of paperback protagonists (including Kinsey Millhone — the fictional Santa Teresa PI — who cracks alphabet mysteries and adds dill pickle to her peanut butter sandwiches). It’s my favourite accompaniment to chapatis, on those blissful days when there is no squidgy bhaji to consume. And it’s a favourite ingredient in cookies, granola bars, Thai dishes and even — hold your breath — laddoos.

While peanut butter is the undisputed king, there’s a wonderful, buttery world out there. Almond butters and cashew butters both have their takers. Apple butter is a great favourite in the American South, and is made by cooking apple sauce till it is thick, brown and silky. Making apple butter is a great way to preserve extra apples. And apple butter days were once outdoors, social occasions during which entire families took turns stirring the sauce with long-handled paddles.

Pumpkin butters and pecan butters also pop up in traditional recipe books. But none of them can quite compare with the new generation of over-the-top spreads — starting with the Christmassy cookie butter from that glorious American food shop: Trader Joe’s.

There’s just one problem, though. Like peanut butter during our childhood, these fancy concoctions are not easily available in India. Which means we’ve come a full circle and are again dependent on obliging/disobliging cousins living abroad.

PS: In case any of my phoren cousins is reading this, here is my please-if-you-have-space-in-your-suitcase list:

Red velvet peanut spread

Monkey Butter maple bacon

Almond butter with vanilla bean and espresso

Tuscan tiramisu fluffbutter

Toffee crunch peanut spread



Adult Nut Butters honey chipotle

Birthday cake peanut spread

If not, the good news is that the almond dark chocolate butter that I bought online is pretty yummy too.

Shabnam Minwalla is a journalist and author. Her latest book is What Maya Saw

Cookie butter

(Also known as the Magical Happy Monday Morning Spread. Still at the experimentation stage, so feel free to modify)


  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp bourbon or a tsp of powdered cinnamon
  • 350g shortbread cookies/ ginger biscuits
  • I tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp condensed milk


  • 1 Heat the milk over medium flame and mix in the sugar and bourbon/cinnamon. Stop before the milk starts to boil.
  • 2 Crush the cookies and add them to the milk. Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then spoon the mushy cookies out of the milk and into a mixer.
  • 3 Add the vanilla extract, condensed milk and blend till smooth. You can add some of the leftover milk to get the perfect consistency. Refrigerate.

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Published on November 16, 2018
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