To make a butter board, you must first accept a few undeniable truths: (1) you will do whatever the internet tells you to do, (2) you will probably like it, and (3) you are about to consume an unforgivable amount of butter.
At this point, I don’t need to tell you what a butter board is. In part because the dish is self-explanatory: a charcuterie-inspired board spread with butter, topped with various herbs, lemon, honey, salt, etc., and served with bread. On September 15, cook Justine Doiron (a.k.a. @Justine_Snacks) posted a TikTok about butter boards. If you’re unfamiliar with Doiron, her food videos, especially ones in which she is making toast, are soothing in their simplicity and gentle in their delivery. They are the audiovisual equivalent to having mommy rub your back as you fall asleep. In her butter-board video, Doiron says she was inspired by chef Joshua McFadden, who includes instructions on how to make a butter board in his 2017 cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables. The butter board Doiron creates is gorgeous, topped with flaky salt, lemon zest, red onion, and edible flowers. Who knew butter could be so beautiful? At the end of her 28-second video, which loops seamlessly back to the start, Doiron recommends serving the board with warm bread during your next dinner party. Then, buttery chaos ensued.
Over the past few weeks, butter boards have seeped their way into internet vernacular. There was the initial question. (Have you heard of a butter board?) Then, the confusion. (What even is a butter board?) Next, came the media-propelled assertion that this new-fangled craze was everywhere. (Why is everyone talking about butter boards?) This, of course, came in tandem with inexplicable outrage. (Would you rather eat a butter board or put a loaded gun in your mouth?) “I was not expecting this to blow up,” Doiron wrote in a comment beneath her initial TikTok, “but YOU CAN USE A KNIFE JUST LIKE A CHEESEBOARD CALM YOURSELVES.”
It’s a delicious encapsulation of the internet’s collective desire to turn any small moment into a capital-M Moment, to assign value to something as innocuous as butter. Are you Team Butter Board or Anti-Butter Board? We now have an entire butter-board discourse. Are butter boards safe? Are they a more accessible alternative to the high-end cheese boards? Are they a manifestation of our desire to eat food off of anything but a plate and, in turn, “infantilizing”? Are they literally just butter atop a board? Historians will never know.
“No one is making a butter board just for themselves — I mean, if they are, more power to them,” chef McFadden told the Washington Post, which I took as a challenge rather than a warning. As someone who has long worshiped at the altar of the dip dinner — a meal comprised entirely of various dips — a butter board is but another delectable idol.
To assemble a butter board for one, you will look deviously at the half-used tub of margarine in your fridge before Googling “local butter near me.” You will make your way to some sort of a Whole Foods and purchase the most expensive stick of butter your shopping cart has ever seen. You will contemplate asking the high-schooler stocking shelves if they sell edible flowers, chicken out, and just grab some fresh herbs instead. (These will spend the next week wilting alongside your margarine, but let’s not think about that right now.) Do you have a lemon at home? You should probably grab a lemon, two to be safe. You will justify purchasing expensive flaky salt because you don’t have to buy any honey, and maybe you’ll use the salt for some fancy cookies? (You won’t.) Oh, maybe a radish would be good on the butter board? You get a pound of radishes in case you need radishes later. (You’ve never needed a radish.) Before you leave, you buy an eight-dollar juice to feel something. (Regret.)
At home, you lay out your ingredients. You almost use a wooden cutting board because you think it will be more aesthetically pleasing. However, you don’t want to be meticulous about the cleanup, and you just remembered you have a tiny stone serving board that has seemed impractical up until this moment. You begin assembling your butter board and immediately understand the appeal. Spreading butter on a board is calming and indulgent. It is like finger painting for 16th-century royalty. You spend too much time arranging your butter into beautiful swoops that it starts to get too soft. This is how you know it’s time to decorate.
You scatter your herbs and drizzle your honey. You crack some black pepper and sprinkle your flaky salt, conservatively at first and then generously because, again, what else do you need this fancy salt for? You use one (1) of your obscene bunch of radishes. This is self care, you lie to yourself. Regardless, the board is gorgeous. You wish you had someone to share in its glory but revel in the extravagance of eating so much butter all by yourself. It is at this point you realize you forgot to buy bread.
You dip a stale cracker into your expensive butter snack. It tastes … fine. You blame the stale crackers. You finish a sleeve of stale crackers along with the entire butter board — okay, maybe it tastes very good — wondering what you’re going to do with all those radishes.