Thursday, August 22, 2013

The last of my butterhead

Last night I watched as Minnesota's 60th Princess Kay of the Milky Way was crowned.

MarJenna McWilliam, our new Princess Kay, will spend most of today sitting in a cooler while Linda Christensen sculpts her likeness into a 90-pound block of butter. Before the end of the Minnesota State Fair, eleven more butterheads will join MarJenna's in the butter sculpture booth.

Thirteen years ago, I became a part of Minnesota's butterhead tradition.

One of the most common questions I heard after becoming a butterhead was, "What are you going to do with all that butter?"

My answer was always, "I'm not sure."

A lot of dairy princesses serve their butterheads at pancake breakfasts or sweet corn feeds as a way to say thanks to their local dairy farmers for supporting the dairy princess program and thanks to their community for supporting the dairy industry. Others display their butterheads at their weddings. And some dairy princesses, like these three sisters, keep theirs.

I wasn't ever sure what to do with mine. I used the scraps of butter from the sculpture to bake Christmas cookies that year and sent them to many of the people who had supported me as a dairy princess. My butterhead itself went into cold storage in my grandfather's freezer.

As time marched on, I figured there wasn't much I could do with my butterhead, other than keep it. I figured the butter probably wasn't safe to eat anymore. Then, I happened to judge a dairy princess contest with Dr. Florian Ledermann, a dairy veterinarian from Alexandria, Minn. As we talked about my butterhead, Dr. Ledermann assured me that the butter would be safe to eat for many years. Dr. Ledermann had been a food inspector when he served in the military, years before, and butter was one of the foods he inspected.

So, after my grandfather passed away, I buckled my butterhead into the backseat of our car and drove it home. My sister helped me slice it into chunks, which we bagged and returned to the freezer. I baked those pieces of my butterhead into all sorts of recipes over the next year and a half.

Two years later, long after I thought the last of my butterhead had been consumed, I found one last package in the bottom of our freezer.

The butter may be all gone now, but the memories will last a lifetime.

P.S. If you're going to the Minnesota State Fair this year, and you'd like to have Princess Kay of the Milky Way visit your school sometime this year, follow Midwest Dairy (@MidwestDairy) on Twitter, take a picture of yourself at the Butter Sculpture Booth in the Dairy Building and tweet it using the hashtag #MNPrincessKay. One winner will be randomly selected every day of the Minnesota State Fair and announced by noon the following day. Good luck!

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