In last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Marnie Hanel's pat-sized graphic ranks a handful of holiday-themed cookbooks by the amount of butter their recipes require. Weighing in at 176 pages and 1.6 pounds, The Gourmet Cookie Book calls for an astonishing 82 sticks of butter — just less than one for every two pages.
Paula Deen Celebrates? At 240 pages and 4 pounds, this one includes recipes for cream cheese-and- chicken enchiladas, peppermint bark, and toffee-butter cake — as well as a whopping 57 sticks. When you consider that Deen's book also includes salads, pizzas, bastardized wontons and other dishes in which great golden mounds are untraditional, the runner-up may indeed possess a more robust sticks of butter-to-butter-containing-dish ratio. Then there's Gluten-Free and Vegan Holidays by Jennifer Katzinger: 192 pages and 1.1 pounds, zero sticks of butter. Didn't see that one coming.
We're guessing that part of the point of Hanel's graphic is to reveal the extent to which holiday cookbooks lean on butter for flavor. When cookies are a major food group, large birds need moist flesh and crisp skin and various bland mashes and purees require seasoning beyond salt and pepper, butter steps in — much as it does at Thanksgiving, then joined not infrequently by its assertive, chain-smoking cousin bacon fat.
Curious to see how non-holiday-themed cookbooks stacked up, we flipped through a few of our favorites from the past year, volumes we may rely on for holiday recipes. Tartine Bread, all puffed up at 304 pages and 2.9 pounds, clocks only 9.667 sticks of butter — though we're not surprised considering how many pages the book's authors devote to soft-focus shots of sourdough starter and hip-looking people crunching into panini.
Saveur: The New Comfort Food (256 pages, 3 pounds), in both text and photos a retread of content collected from issues of the monthly magazine, is almost Deen-esque. Just over 40 sticks. Lastly, we checked out Mission Street Food (224 pages, 2.6 pounds) by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, a book heavy on beautiful photographs and non-recipe-related text — essentially the authors' life stories, the history of their “restaurants,” introductions to their friends and collaborators and so on. Less than 5 sticks. However, if slabs of pork belly, ounces of duck fat and sheets of chicken skin were tabulated, it'd be a different story.