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Are you a Butterstinker?

A piece ran on NPR recently discussing a novel in which a 19th-century Japanese teenager makes his way to America. The author, Margi Preus, says that one of the Japanese's terms for Westerners was "butter stinker," because Westerners ate a lot of butter and the Japanese thought that that diet made them smell bad.

Very interesting. I had never heard of that term before.

The piece continues:
"Freedom was a foreign feeling to a boy who had grown up in a society where life was so carefully proscribed. 'They had to live in certain kinds of houses,' Preus says. 'They could only eat certain kinds of foods, and even as children they could only play with certain kinds of toys depending upon what their status was in life.'"

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  1. I hope not but my butter does tend to stink even tho I don't keep much of anything in my fridge besides beverages, condiments, cheese, eggs and a few (non rotting) fruits and vegetables. It's a bummer for when I go to bake or make grilled cheese.

    1. When I was a vegetarian I definitely could smell meat on meat-eaters, and it wasn't pleasant.

      2 Replies
      1. re: LulusMom

        A friend of mine moved here many many years ago and said the same thing - Americans in general stank of meat

        1. re: suzigirl

          Meat eaters disbelieve this, I've found. And they get really offended. Sorry meat eaters!

      2. I had heard that, but I thought it had to do with eating dairy products in general. I do notice that people who drink a lot of milk have bad-smelling breath. Maybe some people are more sensitive to the smell than others? I can imagine that in a culture where people don't eat much dairy, a dairy eater would seem stinky.

        My husband used to travel to India for business and he said the first few days, he thought everyone stank (cumin, BO, and fenugreek) but that after a while he got used to it. I imagine the reverse was true as well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Isolda

          My daughter's school visits a dairy farm every year. Smelling what the cows eat makes me understand 100% why I don't like milk (I do love cheese though) because I think milk tastes of whatever it is they call that absolutely rank smelling stuff.

          My husband's first wife was Indian. I love Indian food. I asked if she ever had a different smell from north Americans and he swears up and down she didn't. Go figure. To me, as much as I love cumin, it definitely has a funky and wonderfully musky smell.

        2. Here's something that may also add to the potential smellability of butter stinkers:


          1. As a kid I was brought up on margarine.
            And wouldn't eat butter because it smelled too "cowey". It reminded me of the smell of the cow barn.

            But now I love the smell and taste of butter, particularly Cultured butter. I can eat cold cultured butter like fudge, no bread needed. I can still identify that "cowey" smell...but I like it now.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Sparklebright

              I totally get the "cowey" smell when it comes to milk. All I can smell is that stinky stuff they eat when I take a whiff. For whatever reason, I don't have this problem with butter or cheese.

              1. re: LulusMom

                What is the stinky stuff cows eat? Is it grass that stinks to you? Or is it a feed lot mix of grains?

                Just curious.


                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                  I'm not the person you are asking Junior but I know properly fermented silage can have a whiff to it.
                  For me the "cowey" smell was more like cow poop. Sorry. Hope nobody is eating lunch.

                  1. re: Sparklebright

                    Silage! That is exactly it. Every year my daughter's class goes to a dairy farm and the smell of that stuff overwhelms me. Really strong, and really bad.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      I live in a valley of cow farms and the only bad smell I ver get is the cow poop. We call it " The smell of money" at least to a farmer. I've never noticed that cow feed smells bad, but I haven't fed any cows in my life either.

                      For the record, I love butter, I love cheese and I love beef, not matter what I smell like. :o)


            2. When I read the tagline I immediately thought of the smell of Anchor Butter from New Zealand and the almost acrid aroma of my mother's butterflaps baking in the oven.
              I love butter so I guess it's proudly off to the showers

              1. I'd rather smell a meat eater or butterstinker than a smoker ANY DAY!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Mightymom68

                  In reference to this post, the smoking isn't bad in Japan nowadays. Relative to the past, fewer are smoking, and those that do excuse themselves to some "right field" location to smoke. Separate well-ventilated smoking rooms are usually available in airports, train stations, and even cafes and dept stores. What is off-putting from an American's POV, is some restaurants and probably most if not all bars allow smoking in their establishments.