July 27, 2017
Buttering up Laura Ingalls Wilder for her birthday
by Taylor Sperry
Among the attractions at this year’s Iowa State Fair—which traditionally features a six-hundred-pound “butter cow” along with “companion sculptures” that have included everything from “a tribute to the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon,” to Harry Potter, to “A celebration of the 80th anniversary of Monopoly”—will be a “dairy likeness” of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder, who spent part of her childhood in Bur Oak, Iowa, and would turn 150 this year.
While Brian Taylor Carlson at the Des Moines Register reports that the beloved author “will be cast in 100 percent cream butter,” you may churn in disappointment to know that the structure is not delicious to its core. “We use steel and will bend it into the general shape of the figure or animal or whatever it is we’re making,” butter sculptor Marie Pelton told Tove Danovich at the Salt. “Then you add butter on top as the final phase.” Very similar to the process of making “buttered toast,” which also isn’t butter all the way through, though the French—who else?—have spent generations seeking a workaround.
Nonetheless, sculptures like the cow (and, presumably, the Wilder “companion”) use enough butter “for 19,200 slices of toast, which would take an average person two lifetimes to eat.” For more facts “even the biggest butter cow fan might not know” visit the Des Moines Register and the Iowa State Fair’s Butter Cow History.
Taylor Sperry is an editor at Melville House.