Books Magazine

On A Roll

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Given a topic like On A Roll and knowing your Saturday Blogger as you do, you might almost place bets on me writing a piece this week about music (rock, roll and other four letter words) once I've got obligatory observations about cheese & pickle versus ham & mustard or tuna & cue out of the way. Well, you'd be wrong. I am defying expectations - though before I do, let me go on record as saying that cheese & salami is my topping of choice and that Emily Capell's spirited 'Combat Frock' is my album of the week (even though she's a QPR supporter).
I was reminiscing with my brothers last week-end about fond memories from our childhood days. I wonder how many of you ever played the piratical board game Buccaneer, one of Waddington's finest. I still have the set that we used as boys; something of a family heirloom, vintage if not technically antique, for it's a first edition, dating from when my father and uncle were teenagers in the 1930s. It's still in reasonable repair, though sadly it hasn't been used since my own daughters were introduced to it in the 1990s - board games are so last century!

On A Roll

original set of Waddington's Buccaneer

If you're not familiar with Buccaneer, two of its more intriguing aspects are that its large 'board' comes on a roll and is stored in a tube when not in play and unlike most board games, it contains no dice. Pirate ships move around the chequered board in straight or diagonal lines from home port to treasure island to bag loot (diamonds, rubies, gold bars, pearls, barrels of rum) and bring it back to port, but the number of squares a boat can move on each turn is determined by the value of crew cards, which can be won or lost as the game progresses. Naturally, if I could, I always played with the orange boat (sailing out of/into Marseilles dock) and would usually attempt to load it up with rubies, the richest of prizes.

On A Roll

a box of treasures

There was no finer feeling on a Saturday evening after a Chinese take-away than to be on a roll back to Marseilles with a boat full of treasure and a hand of crew cards strong enough to sail at a lick and ward off the inevitable marauders. For me, Buccaneer had the edge over other leading board games like Monopoly, Risk, Careers, Coppit and Totopoly. (We didn't have Cluedo then, as I recall.) Such innocent barbarity lives long in the memory - how else to explain that this is the third Saturday Blog in a row to touch on things piratical?  
It is most unlikely that buccaneers would have eaten rolls, even if they'd baked bread with their bug-infested flour. However, I'm sure that if they had done, octopus, parrot and wild pig would have featured large on the topping list.
Of course, despite there being so many different preferences for what to put on a roll, the one constant is butter (or its vegetable equivalent), always the first thing to be spread. Consequently, I thought I'd do a spot of research into a brief history of the fatty matter and this, in essence, is what I found:
The origin of the word butter, like so much else (as I impress upon you regularly), is Greek. Bouturon (βούτυρον
means literally ox cheese. Not that the Greeks used butter, for they had olive oil in abundance, thank you very much, but they were aware of its existence and usage among the hoards of northern Europe. In fact they regarded butter as one of the barbarians' more cultured achievements.
Butter is made by churning or agitating milk (originally of goat or sheep, commonly now of cow) until the solids in the emulsion, the curds, begin to separate from the liquid whey. The solids, mostly butterfat, are then pressed with wooden paddles (known as Scotch Hands) until most of the liquid has been squeezed out leaving a pale oily substance that is approximately 80% butterfat and 20% water which keeps for several weeks at room temperature (and longer if cooled) before going rancid.
What I also learned to my surprise is that butter was originally mainly used by the lower classes, the peasantry - in much the same way I suppose as very poor families used to eat bread and dripping because they couldn't afford to eat anything more substantial like meat or fish with their bread. However, in the last few centuries butter has become truly classless and tons of the stuff get spread on rolls around the world every day.
I could think of nothing more unlikely to write a poem about than butter, but since I'm on a roll, here goes. I did write one about cheese some years ago, though it didn't make the grade and so has never seen the light of day. Actually, this slightly salacious product of the imaginarium is more about milkmaids than butter itself, so it might work. It even begins with what could be the parodic punch line to a feghoot, or a nod ahead to next week's theme of epigram!

On A Roll

a milkmaid and her cow

Butter Cup The hand that rocks the curdle lures the wold.
This subtle drawing power of dairy maids
exerts its hold on men of every age,
and each degree, from boldest squire to lowly lad.
Is it the image of sweet purity
conjured up by girls in muslin whites?
They rise like ghosts, obedient with the dawn,
to cheerfully perform the daily milking rite
in parlour, barn and field, then later churn
the morning's yield, while dreaming of a beau
who'll make them ladies yet and liberate them
from this life of pressing palest butter into pats.
Of course the squires possess no such intent
and farm hands lack the means to shape the dream,
though each will harbor fond seductive thoughts
of one illicit drink from out the butter cup.
It's what they dearly yearn for, just a chance
to linger with a maid on bed of hay,
enjoy her creamy body for a day...
and maybe realize the promised magic
dancing in her practised dextrous milky fingers.
Thanks for reading. Don't spread yourselves too thin, S :-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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