L’argent du beurre

I hated butter when I was kid. Not so much the taste but the greasy, slimy nature of it. It seems this was an acquired dislike. One of my first memories, which is probably only a memory of a story I was later told, was of reaching my hand into the butter dish and having it slapped away. So began my aversion.

Later in life the sentiment dissipated as I discovered the flavour and richness that butter brings. At first I could only enjoy it as a topping on popcorn, when cooked into something or as a scant scraping on toast. Unfortunately for my cholesterol count, I now like a bit of butter on warm bread (very un-French, other than at breakfast) and add liberal doses of le beurre to everything from sauces to omelettes to veg.

I must admit we’re rather spoiled for butter around here. French butter is heralded by many for its superior quality. The only other butter which might possibly be better is Swiss. Just think of all those alpine pastures with the cows grazing on grass.

There are three kinds of beurre: doux (sweet), demi-sel (semi-salted) and salé (salted). There is even the kind with little salt crystals for those who enjoy the taste of salt explosions. The best butters are churned (‘barrate’) to separate out the buttermilk (‘babeurre’).

There is a French expression which seems particularly apt to me these days: “On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre.” Literally this means that you cannot have both the butter and the money you make from selling it. Which essentially translates to the English expression, “You can’t have your cake and it eat it too.” Or have it both ways.

Looking for a new place to live means confronting this reality head on. You can downsize and have the same space. You can’t live in or near a town without having some noise. You can’t enjoy a mountain view without having to climb some hills. You can’t enjoy the advantages of good transit connections without have a train line or highway nearby.

When we decided to sell our house and move to something smaller on the Swiss side, we knew we wouldn’t have everything we wanted. So we set a few guidelines for our search. I was prepared to compromise on many things but not on a certain quantity and quality of space.

It has been a bit of a journey. Along the way I learned a few things, or re-learned them:

1. Shit happens. COVID-19 happened. The best-laid plans are nothing in the face of a pandemic.

2. You must stay true to what you want but keep your mind open to unexpected opportunities, go off the path and explore a little.

3. Pictures and online visits are all very well for a first impression but you have to actually see a space to get a feel of whether it’s right for you.

4. Things will eventually fall into place.

And so they have. Against all odds, only one month after lockdown was lifted in France, it seems we have found buyers for our house, and a new place to live in Switzerland. Neither of which quite fit the initial ideas of what we thought. But both feel right. More on our new place soon. I’m too superstitious to share details before we have signed on the dotted line.

In the meantime, there will be butter. I will definitely not be selling but enjoying it.

How do you like your butter — sweet, demi-sel or not at all?


  1. margaret21 · June 12, 2020

    I’m keeping fingers crossed for you. Moving house and all that goes with it is no fun, but I hope you have the first bit done. Ooh, butter with salt crystals please. We can’t buy it in England and I’m addicted.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Thanks, Margaret! We’ve a ways to go yet but I keep reminding myself the hardest bit is behind us! 🤞 Hope you get your salt crystal fix soon!

      • margaret21 · June 13, 2020

        I’m not holding my breath for our travels, but hope things continue well for you.

  2. Carolyn · June 12, 2020

    Slightly salted please (although I love the salt crystals version, trying be reasonable).
    When we were little, we were given a lump of butter coated in sugar for a bad throat. Yuck.
    Mmmn. Butter on fresh vegetables. Oh no. I’m getting peckish and I’ve just had breakfast!

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Oh dear, the idea of that sore throat remedy is enough to make me ill! But I can see how the butter might coat the throat… I’m with you on the veg. Love the taste of melted butter on sautéed spinach, with mushroom or new potatoes!

  3. Colin Bisset · June 12, 2020

    Congrats! Sounds like a healthy dose of flow – everything falling into place – which can only be good. Looking forward to the rebranded SwitzerlandSays…

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Hmm…not sure that has quite the same ring to it! But thanks — will definitely tweak the tag line…’Observations of life beyond borders?’ Am pretty sure I’ll find all kinds of new things to complain about once the thrill of our new place wears off. 😎

  4. francetaste · June 12, 2020

    Félicitations! It isn’t easy right now, buying or selling.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Thanks! How fortunate we can’t see into the future or we’d never attempt anything. I think all things considered we have been fairly lucky. But still lots of work and many challenges ahead. Am trying to take it one step at a time!

  5. midihideaways · June 12, 2020

    Great news and well done Mel – I’m very pleased for you!! I’m sure you have an interesting time ahead with packing and sorting, but that’s part of the fun of moving!! 😉 As for the butter, demi-sel on toast with marmalade (a taste I acquired in Britain) and unsalted with everything else!! 🙂

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Funny, I’ve never managed to acquire a taste for marmalade — I’ll go with Bonne Maman fraises — but with you on the butter! As for the move, I will try to remember that packing and unpacking are supposed to be fun. Will probably have to practice some deep breathing, though… 🙏🏻

  6. pedmar10 · June 12, 2020

    And a new life begins, best of luck. I have been thru so many new lives that it seems natural by now, hoping you fit in well with the Swiss and they do use butter!

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Pedmar, I could use a bit of your energy as we head into this. Just the idea of all that lies ahead exhausts me! But we have a couple of months thanks to French laws and the Swiss tendency to anticipate everything well ahead of time. And I am confident there will be no lack of butter!

      • pedmar10 · June 13, 2020

        All will be ok. We never look back only memories…cheers

  7. mistermuse · June 12, 2020

    Here in the USA, Trump loves to be buttered up because it feeds his ravenous ego. Hopefully, he will be toast after the November election and have to butter himself up..

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      We can always hope he slips on some and falls flat on his orange face! (I don’t generally wish anyone to come to harm but I’ll make an exception in his case!)

  8. Ally Bean · June 12, 2020

    I’m not a fan of the flavor of butter. This makes me odd [odder?], but if I do have any of it I prefer it to be sweet, I guess. I like your point #2. Words to live by.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      There’s nothing odd about it, but I think we all have our oddities! (Which make us more interesting human beings!). Yes, point #2 is one that I continually have to relearn as I tend to want to skip the steps and go straight to the goal.

  9. Suzanne et Pierre · June 12, 2020

    Congratulations on finding a new place to live. Your lessons are quite universal and always good to be reminded of them. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Many thanks, Suzanne. We are feeling rather fortunate at this stage, despite the fact that there’s a lot of change to come. I’ll probably have new learnings to share along the way!

  10. nessafrance · June 12, 2020

    Fingers crossed that your sale and move go smoothly. I like butter, but with high cholesterol I have to be a bit careful. It’s an occasional treat in our house.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Thank you, Vanessa. I try not to go overboard as my cholesterol is a bit on the high side — both the good and the bad kind, though, so not so worrying. Still, all things in moderation, including moderation (as my Dad says!).

  11. davidprosser · June 12, 2020

    I hope the move goes off really well Mel. Butter, it;s beautiful, with salt.
    Huge Hugs

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Lovely to hear from you, David! Hope you are enjoying your salted butter in moderation — if I remember correctly, you like to slather it on toast! xo

  12. Dale · June 12, 2020

    Congrats on finding the new and selling the old. Looking forward to more when all is signed and registered.
    Butter. Manna from Heaven. Will never do without and I have never had with salt crystals – oh my… I use sweet in my baking and semi-salt or full-salt for everything else.

    • MELewis · June 13, 2020

      Thanks, Dale! 😊 I would’ve thought the crystal kind would be found in Québec. Do give it a try if it comes your way, or if you travel to France one of these days.

      • Dale · June 13, 2020

        Maybe in some high-falutin’ shops that I don’t frequent 😉
        Supposed to go next April…

  13. CompassAndCamera · June 13, 2020

    Congrats! And thanks for sharing another French expression. 🙂

    • MELewis · June 15, 2020

      Thanks! Always a pleasure to share a new expression. There are just so many…😄

  14. acflory · June 15, 2020

    Based on the same superstition I won’t congratulate you, but I will say I’m looking forward to hearing more about ‘it’. And my heart attack of choice is demi-sel. 🙂

    • MELewis · June 15, 2020

      We really must allow ourselves some guilty pleasures, eh? Hopefully I will have news to share soon without jinxing anything. It is proving to be interesting so far, with the mail across borders going very slowly. I am practicing my deep breathing!

      • acflory · June 15, 2020

        lol – stay Zen!

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