The charcuterie board came first. Despite its eminence in France dating back to the 15th century, American millennials really seemed to grasp onto the concept of the charcuterie board in the last several years, perhaps because of its association with the term “adult Lunchables” (which I’m sure the French are so pleased about).
Ken Albala, a history professor at University of the Pacific who focuses on food history, attributes the rising popularity of charcuterie to the “interest in do-it-yourself artisanal craft food.” But he also references the fact that charcuterie boards are just so Instagrammable—you take a few unassuming slices of cheese and cured meat on a board, and suddenly, you’ve created a beautiful dish that takes exactly zero cooking skills… and it’s going to look great on your IG story.
Then came all the other boards. There’s the Halloween candy board. The build-your-own-burger board. Even the Chick-Fil-A chicken nugget board. If you ask me, these types of boards are all pretty gimmicky, but admittedly, they do photograph well. And frankly, if someone showed up to a potluck with an entire cutting board filled with chicken nuggets, I certainly wouldn’t be upset.
However, a new type of board has found its way to social media: the butter board. Brooklyn-based cook Justine Doiron took to Instagram on September 15 to declare the butter board, credited to cookbook author Josh McFadden, the new charcuterie board. In the video she posted, Doiron spreads a thick yellow butter (which is reportedly Kerrygold, truly a sacred ingredient in my household) directly onto a wooden cutting board and dresses the smears of creamy fat with flaky salt, lemon zest, edible flowers, herbs, honey and thinly sliced onion. She then cuts slices of bread and smears them across the board, scooping up the butter and toppings in the process.
The internet seems to have mixed feelings about the butter board. Food writer Bettina Makalintal took to Twitter to write, “i’m sorry but the ‘butter board’ …. No,” with several comments backing her up to comment that, yes, the butter board idea seems unappealing. But others have seen it as an opportunity to publish their own takes on the viral concept, from a board featuring harissa-infused butter to one that eschews the board entirely and instead uses bread as the base of the dish, taking us full-circle from butter board back to what is essentially toast in under two weeks of the trend’s appearance on social media.
Personally, I love just about anything smeared in flavored fat, and a wooden board is no exception. As an avid toast eater, the board itself seems a bit superfluous to me, but I also get its appeal from a social media standpoint, and I can’t deny that presenting a board full of butter like this to a party would probably make one popular. And I like the idea from an affordability standpoint. Buying all the necessary ingredients for even a small charcuterie board can be expensive, to say the least. Butter and a few toppings are significantly less expensive and can be just as impressive a centerpiece on a snack table.
Ultimately, I think we’ll keep seeing different foods board-ed for the next several years, at least until perfectionist Instagram food content goes completely out of fashion. And yes, part of me rolls my eyes when I see yet another charcuterie knockoff. But also, I’m not going to lie to myself and deny that I want to scoop globs of fat off of a board with a crusty baguette. Next month, someone will put something else, like peanut butter or ice cream, on a board, and we’ll all have to face the repercussions of the butter board when they arrive. For now, though, just give me and my Kerrygold some space to express ourselves.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.