Whether spread on hot toast, rolls, or French bread, or melted and poured onto stone crabs or ray wings, butter appears frequently in the James Bond novels. What do the many descriptions of butter tell us about which type James Bond prefers?
In From Russia, with Love (1957), we see James Bond at his breakfast table in his flat off the King’s Road in London, and learn that he enjoys a single boiled egg from a Marans hen, Tiptree’s ‘Little Scarlet’ strawberry jam, Cooper’s Vintage Oxford marmalade, and Norwegian heather honey. The butter he uses to spread on his whole-wheat toast is special too: a large pat of yellow Jersey butter. In Moonraker (1955), we read that M’s club Blades serves it as well, a sign surely that Ian Fleming considered Jersey butter to be the best.
What makes Jersey butter so special? Made from the milk of Jersey cows, the butter is higher in fat that many other butters, giving it a creamy taste and golden-yellow colour. Jersey butter can be hard to find on supermarket shelves these days (and indeed, when I visited my local supermarket, the closest I could get – in region and appearance, as well as taste – was a block of Guernsey butter), but it can be purchased from specialist dairies.
While in England, James Bond opts for Jersey butter, on the Continent, it’s a different story. In ‘Risico’, James Bond wonders, as he smothers some bread with deep yellow butter, why rolls and butter are delicious only in France or Italy. In Casino Royale (1953), the ‘thick square of deep yellow butter set in chips of ice’ must be French. No brand is named, but given Bond’s location – the fictional seaside town of Royale-les-Eaux on the north-west coast of France – it’s a fair bet that the butter was from northern France, a region well-known for its butter.
Such butter, like most butters made on the Continent, is traditionally made with lactic cow’s milk; that is milk that’s been soured by the addition of lactic-acid bacteria. The result is another golden, creamy butter, though one that is a lighter yellow than Jersey butter. I happen to have a butter (pictured, left) made in the Charentes-Poitou region on the central western coast of France, but it’s very similar in appearance and taste to butter made in, say, the Normandy region, and I’m sure James Bond would approve!