Bread and butter may be the simplest of meals, but this year it has become positively slathered with political and social connotations.
From rising inflation impacting the ever increasing cost of living and food costs to politicians capitalising on the so-called authenticity of the phrase to connect with potential voters, bread and butter has never been so popular.
Even the budget, set to be revealed on Thursday, has already been nicknamed by some as the 'bread and butter budget', with a focus on 'no frills' spending and the 'basics'.
When the government's new Cabinet met for the first time in January, both prime minister Chris Hipkins and deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni shared social media posts that seemed clearly vetted to put forward on one key issue: bread, and butter.
“Today the new Cabinet met for the first time and made some key decisions on rationalising and refocusing the government's agenda,” wrote the PM. “We know Kiwis want us focussed on the bread and butter issues that matter to them at the moment.”
In last week's edition of The Boil Up (The Spinoff's must-read food newsletter), Charlotte Muru-Lanning wrote about the “politics of pastry”, focusing on Hipkins' well-publicised love of sausage rolls – but her analysis could easily extend to Labour's use of 'bread and butter' as a political tool. “Food is political and, as I know from writing about it, it’s a wonderfully accessible tool for communicating more complex ideas,” she wrote. “Sausage rolls in this case could be seen as shorthand for New Zealand-ness, working class identity, authenticity and, more generally, a kind of commonsense brand of politics.”
Butter, considered by many an essential household item (and an increasing luxury) is possibly more politically charged than pastries currently, with Aotearoa's love of butter and associated intensive farming being linked to climate polluting practices. We might not have the answers about how to solve this critical environmental crisis, but we can tell you if there’s a critical difference between a $5 block and an $8 block.
So, ahead of Thursday’s bread and butter budget, we do the investigation few would have the stomach to do: we put 12 butters to a blind taste test.
We had a few rules (that none of our tasters were aware of). All butters were purchased from our local Countdown. Much as we would’ve loved to include Pasture’s aged butter, or Kingi’s smoked butter, we decided for the purpose of this tasting that all products must be easily purchased.
There were no margarines on our list (we aren’t savages), although there was one vegan ‘butter’. All tastings were done with Daily Bread’s white tin loaf and fermented oat sourdough, with a Countdown date scone for those who wished to try on a sweeter vessel. NB: we failed the inclusiveness test, and forgot to offer a gluten-free substitute. We are listening, and promise to do better next time. Herewith the findings.
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Our fearless taste-testers:
Lucy, she/her, 30s
Ruminations on butter: Love it - the thicker the better. It makes everything taste better.
Preferred way of consuming it: On fresh homemade bread.
Favourite butter brand: Lewis Road, I think? I’m not too picky though.
Tyson, she/her, 30s
Ruminations on butter: I have no hot butter takes. Except I think that your basic block probably has broader appeal. I guess I’m a butter centrist. I really only eat butter on toast or in baking, my 90s / 2000s upbringing has drilled into me that in all other applications Olivio is the ‘healthier’ option.
Preferred way of consuming it: On an end piece of Vogel’s, with marmite and tomato, or marmalade.
Favourite butter brand: Not to be a Fonterra shill but Anchor? Honestly I just buy whatever is cheapest.
Jono, he/him, 41
Ruminations on butter: Yes.
Preferred way of consuming it: Often.
Favourite butter brand: Lurpak.
Best butter memory: This tasting.
Sarah, she/her, 45
Ruminations on butter: F…ing love it. Butter is life.
Preferred way of consuming it: Straight from the pack. But mostly on top of a still warm baguette, melting into my crumpet or as a star ingredient in baking.
Favourite butter brand: I’m perfectly happy with good old Anchor, Tararua or Countdown brands. What I am not happy with is the price.
Best butter memory: My childhood was definitely a happier one because we were a butter family. Until Mum discovered Olivani in the 1990s.
Daniel, he/him, 25-34
Ruminations on butter: Love it.
Preferred way of consuming it: Just on some good bread, or toasted hot cross buns, or toasted Vogel's.
Favourite butter brand: A non-fussy butter consumer.
Best butter memory: The next time I have it.
Lyric, she/her, 22
Your thoughts on butter in general: I am a big believer in butter. I refuse to let diet culture take away this joy from my life. If it’s good enough for Europeans, it’s good enough for me.
Preferred way of consuming it: Melted over bread, or in a thick pasta sauce.
Favourite butter brand: These days, whatever’s cheapest is good enough for me.
Last place: Lewis Road Creamery Premium unsalted butter 250g, $7.20 ($2.88/100g) 22 points.
Lucy: Needs more salt!!! 4/12
Tyson: No discernable flavour - waxy mouthfeel. Surprisingly flaccid block, you couldn’t keep this out on the bench for long. 2/12
Jono: It’s margarine. 3/12
Sarah: Unsalted. An assault on the senses. 2/12
Daniel: Of all the butters this tastes most like a spread that's a butter substitute. 1/12
Lyric: This has a margarine-like texture (or maybe it’s just melted a bit). It’s easily spread and goes down pretty well. 10/12
11th place: Vutter Original Spread 265g, $8.50 ($3.21/100g) 24 points.
Lucy: The fluoro green colour is quite off putting! Is it vegan or vege? It’s a pass for a butter that doesn’t have dairy in it. 1/12
Tyson: Vaguely herbal? Maybe I just think that because it's GREEN. Texture of a buttercream that’s hardened on a cake. Not not nice but not sure when I’d eat it? Maybe in a ham sammy? Tastes kind of like mayo. 3/12
Jono: Why the f..k is it green? Gross. I can’t get past the colour and slightly shimmery texture. 2/12
Sarah: Tastes a bit marge-y. But I like it and I also have first hand experience of this vegan butter because I bought it at The Food Show and would absolutely buy it again. I also like the glow in the dark hue. 8/12
Daniel: Tasty and smooth, but the slightly green colour was a little off putting. 9/12
Lyric: That colour is almost terrifying! Like, why is it that shade of yellow? It looks very off-putting paired with the other butters, and the taste isn’t much better. 1/12
10th place: Organic Times lightly salted butter grass fed, $8.90 ($3.56/100g) 29 points.
Lucy: A margarine consistency - not sure I like it. 5/12
Tyson: Salty by contrast. Got that shuddery tang you get when you've eaten too much rich food. 1/12
Jono: Is it even butter? Weird texture. Slightly odd aftertaste. It’s a no from me. 4/12
Sarah: A good all rounder. This is a butter that will compliment, rather than compete, with any other toppings you add to your toast / crumpet / muffin / scone. 8/12
Daniel: Upper echelon for flavour. 7/12
Lyric: This also has a cheaper taste, like maybe the cows whose milk made this butter might need a better diet. 4/12
9th place: Westgold Butter Unsalted 400g, $6.50 (down from $7.20) ($1.63/100g) 32 points.
Lucy: Doesn’t seem to have much flavour - a bit too plain. 3/12
Tyson: Tastes milky? Would this be good in baking? 8/12
Jono: First one I tried… “tastes like butter”… which in terms of some of the others, is a high compliment. 8/12
Sarah: Lacking flavour. 4/12
Daniel: Not so salty, so a little lacking on flavour but it's smooth. 3/12
Lyric: Nothing special about this one. It’s pretty bland. 6/12
5th (tied):Alpine Butter, 500g, $8 ($1.60/100g) 36 points.
Lucy: Is this a margarine as well? I think by this stage they all started blending together. 5/12
Tyson: There's a familiarity here, I think my tongue recognises this. Seems like a multipurpose player. Tastes like butter. 12/12
Jono: Occupying a space between waxy and creamy, it had a real mouth-coaty texture. 7/12
Sarah: So buttery. This is good butter. It plays second fiddle to Butter #11 [Tararua]. 8/12
Daniel: Super smooth, but lacks flavour. The bottom end of the middle pack that goes from the butters I've ranked from 4 to 11. 2/12
Lyric: Reminds me of McDonald’s butter. I’ll let that statement speak for itself. 2/12
5th (tied): Westgold Grassfed salted butter 400g, $6.50 (down from $7.20) ($1.63/100g) 36 points.
Lucy: I love salt but I think this is slightly too salty - the taste lingers but I like it. 8/12
Tyson: Silky? A gentle pale inside with that yellow ring on the outer surface. 10/12
Jono: Meh? Nothing exciting about it, a little on the bland side. 5/12
Sarah: Salty. 3/12
Daniel: Smooth, but in the large middle of the pack as far as flavour goes. 5/12
Lyric: This taste is noticeably cheaper than the first butter. 5/12
4th (tied): Countdown NZ butter, salted, 500g, $5.30 ($1.06/100g) 38 points.
Lucy: Yum - nice and salty. 10/12
Tyson: This one tastes nice on a scone, cuts through the sweetness. 6/12
Jono: Very solid, unusual texture - almost crumbly? Not a fan. 4/12
Sarah: Where is the salt? I refuse to review a saltless butter. 3/12
Daniel: Upper echelon for flavour and texture. 8/12
Lyric: Perfectly average. What else can I say? I can definitely believe it is butter. 7/12
4th (tied): Lurpak Danish Butter lightly salted 250g, $7 (down from $7.50) ($2.80/100g) 38 points.
Lucy: Needs more salt! Too ‘margariney’. 2/12
Tyson: Pliable spreadability. Attractive salinity. Softly hued. Broad appeal. 11/12
Jono: It tastes cheap. 6/12
Sarah: I’m not sure how they do it but it’s kinda sweet and salty at the same time. I’m on the fence with this one. Is it actually butter? 5/12
Daniel: A solid, great for smooth texture, lacking a little for that rich full flavour.
Lyric: Good. 8/12
3rd: Lewis Road Creamery Sea Salt Crystal butter 250g, $7.20 ($2.88/100g) 42 points.
Lucy: Super creamy and spreadable although I think it was slightly melted? Yum, would have again. 7/12
Tyson: This one looks funky - sort of like it's separated. But the grainy appearance is actually just salt crystals. It’s… fine, but it’s niche. Probably rates highly amongst smokers with no taste buds left or people who order their coffee extra hot. 5/12
Jono: F..k yes. Inject it into my veins. Delicious. Visible and detectable salt crystals. 12/12
Sarah: Margarine dupe. This stuff has actual salt crystals dotted throughout which I found… surprising. 3/12
Daniel: The standout. I think the extra saltiness gave it additional flavour. 12/12
Lyric: By this point I’ve had so much butter I fear my arteries are starting to clog, and the weird texture of this butter isn’t making me feel much better. 3/12
2nd (tied): Mainland Butter Salted, 250g, $5 ($2/100g) 46 points.
Lucy: This is my second favourite I think although it had an interesting aftertaste but I think I had OD’d on butter at this stage. 11/12
Tyson: Pretty mellow, very pale in colour. 4/12
Jono: A lot like #11 but slightly blander. By this stage my arteries were giving up. 10/12
Sarah: Salty. The thing is - I love salt but this is too much. Calm down [insert brand here]. 2/12
Daniel: Lovely rich flavour but with great smooth texture as well. 10/12
Lyric: It’s good, a bit saltier than others. 9/12
2nd (tied): Anchor Pure Butter 500g $8.50 ($1.70/100g) 46 points.
Lucy: Not super flavoursome but a pass. Nice and smooth texture. 6/12
Tyson: Bog standard butter. 9/12
Jono: It felt generic? Like just standard butter you might have at nana’s house. 9/12
Sarah: A little bland at first but delivered a surprising flavour kick after a few seconds. I wouldn’t write home about it but I wouldn’t be disappointed if I ended up taking a packet home from the supermarket. 7/12
Daniel: Smooth texture wise but not as flavourful as the others. 4/12
Lyric: Smooth, goes down well and pairs very nicely with my scone. 11/12
First place: Tararua Butter 500g, $5 (on sale from $8.20) ($1/100g) 62 points.
Lucy: This seems like a classic good butter. Would eat again. I think it’s my favourite? 12/12
Tyson: This coated the tongue quite well, is that what you want? 7/12
Jono: Best colour of any of them, nice glowy yellow. Salty too, delicious. 11/12
Sarah: A true, rich, golden New Zealand butter. Stock my fridge with this. I’d use it in my baking, I’d slather it on my muffin. Butter like this makes me happy; it’s not trying to be anything other than what it is. 9/12
Daniel: Salty so has that flavour but also has that great smooth texture. 11/12
Lyric: This one has a nice, full flavour. I bet those cows are grass-fed. 12/12