Excerpt from “Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona,” a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published February 11, 2001.)
Q: Why are sticks of butter sold here not the same as butter sold in the East? The Arizona kind is shorter and fatter. It doesn’t fit on the butter trays I bought years ago in Connecticut.
A: We have to confess that sometimes, in our darker hours, we sit alone under the light of a single naked bulb here at the shabby but genteel headquarters of Valley 101 and pull a bottle of root beer out of our battered desk and wonder if it’s time to give it up. Have all the great questions been asked? All the great mysteries solved? Are there no
mountains left to climb?
And then a question like yours arrives, and our faith in the essential oddness of our readers is restored. A new day dawns. Wiping the root beer foam from our lips, we turn our chiseled visage to face a new challenge.
“It’s just a regional preference. In the West, butter comes in a ‘Western flat.’ In the East it’s called an ‘Elgin quarter.’ There is no real reason for it other than regional preference,” said he. “It’s the same reason that in the East people prefer white cheddar cheese, and in the Midwest and West they prefer yellow cheddar cheese. It’s just a matter of a little food coloring.”
Frankly, the thought of white cheddar cheese makes us a little queasy, but that is neither here nor there.
We are told by a usually reliable butter consumer of our acquaintance that at least one brand of butter sold hereabouts comes in Elgin quarters — Land O’Lakes — but we do not know this for a fact. We will check it out the next time we go to the store for root beer.