Guyon: The Butter Story

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(HOST) The combination of Thanksgiving dinner and the National Day of Listening reminded writer and commentator Annie Lawrence Guyon of a family story that resonates for her – throughout the holidays.

(GUYON) Beginning with Thanksgiving, the holidays are filled with images of abundance and feasting, of overflowing cornucopias, long tables and big families reaching for sumptuous dishes.  But for families whose beginnings were meager, the holidays can trigger deep reflection from those who remember harder times, tales which often don’t resonate much for the kids who are busy piling more mashed potatoes onto their plates.  I’m sure I rolled my eyes when I was little, hearing stories of hardship for the umpteenth time but now, as a parent, I too try to teach my children about those who have gone before us – those who had to work hard to improve their future.

For me, certain foods are powerful reminders – butter, for example.  I can’t even make a piece of toast in the morning without remembering my Grandmum, who grew up in England.  She often told me the story of when she was a girl during World War I and ration cards were issued for staples such as sugar, cheese, meat and butter.  German U-Boats were mounting a campaign to starve Britain by sinking cargo ships carrying food across the channel and rationing was one of many strategies the British government instituted to conserve its resources.
One day, Grandmum’s mother sent her out with a ration card to get their weekly allotment of butter.  Grandmum held it in her hand while sitting on a bench waiting for a local bus to take her down their steep hill to the center of the village.  But then a few mates came along and, well, she got distracted and, upon arriving at the shops, realized she’d lost the ration card.

She raced back up the hill, searched all around the bench and, upon realizing it was gone forever, sat down and cried til nightfall, too terrified to go home.

Because of her story, I’ve always thought of butter as a luxury, something to really savor, and I’m even more aware of it now in this economy.  I appreciate every morsel of food I eat, but knowing that my elders struggled through wartime and various other deprivations makes me even more grateful for abundance we enjoy during the holidays – even the pat of butter I drop onto my mashed potatoes.

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