Ellen Clifford
Updated Mar 22, 2014 @ 6:00 am
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The Butter Battle Book is an anti-war statement, and by far the eeriest Dr. Seuss book ever published. If you want lighter Seuss-ian fare, look elsewhere. This story is disturbing. It depicts how different groups threaten each other with increasingly complex weaponry. I am sort of surprised The Butter Battle Book even got published. It really isn’t a bedtime story. The ending is downright apocalyptic – the sort of thing you will have scary dreams about. So naturally, my parents read it to me as a kid.

Granted, the tale is told in Dr. Seuss’s usual silly rhymes and the weapons are fanciful contraptions with funny names-could a Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo be so bad? And granted, the tale is butter-coated. And a spoonful of butter makes the literature go down. How serious can a book about a dairy product really be? The concept is simple. On one side of the wall live the Yooks. Our narrator and his Grandpa are Yooks. On the other side of the wall live the Zooks. The dividing factor is that the Yooks eat their bread with the butter side up, and the Zooks eat it with the butter side down.

Now, I admit that butter side down sounds a bit strange, not to mention drippy. On the other hand, it is sort of logical. I am such a butter lover that maybe it would be better to get the butter hitting the tongue first. Hmm. I experimented. It is equally pleasurable either way. I mean, come on, it’s butter. In my mind, butter can do no wrong.

Strange or not, butter side up vs. down is the cause for the great rift between our narrator’s kin, the Yooks, and the Zooks. Yooks feel that “Every Zook must be watched! He has kinks in his soul!” The butter factor is the cause for the great wall that exists between the two sides. I do wonder why the Yooks, who seem to be only ever clad in blue, don’t seem disturbed by the fact that the Zooks are always in orange. That is the only other apparent difference between the two sides. I guess they couldn’t see past the butter.

Aside from a sling-shot attack that starts the Yooks vs. Zooks squabble up, violence is never actually used in The Butter Battle Book. It is simply a threat. The Yooks and Zooks progress from slingshots all the way to bombs. It ends in a face-off. While the rest of the population takes shelter underground, a Zook and a Yook face off, dangling bombs over the wall. We are left to wonder who drops theirs first. Dr. Seuss ends with “We will see…”. Either way, widespread destruction is promised. I really cannot impress on you enough how ominous the ending is.

What if the Zooks and Yooks could have just gotten together, had a drink and figured out a compromise? Like, say, a bread that gets butter on BOTH sides? Duh. They could be even more open-minded with this bread as it is an excellent vehicle for dips. And if a nice batch of spinach-artichoke dip doesn’t chill you out, what will? I decided make up for my sleepless childhood nights. I made myself a batch of this flatbread and ate about half of it. Butter heaven. Sweet dreams ensued.

Flatbread adapted from Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

  • 1 package instant (rapid-rise) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour, passed though a sieve to remove excess bran
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more to dust surface
  • 1 cup room temperature water
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil plus some for oiling bowl
  • BUTTER! melted, for brushing
  • sea salt, if you like

Crank up your mixer! This is a recipe you really need a stand mixer for. Use the paddle attachment to quickly blend the yeast, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour and bread flour. Add the water, yogurt and olive oil and blend on low until a shaggy dough forms. Change to the dough hook. Knead on low-medium speed around 8 minutes until the dough is a nice, smooth mass. You may need to add a touch more flour here.

Move the kneaded dough to a bowl greased with oil, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled. It will take close to an hour. Turn out onto a floured board and cut into 8 pieces. Form into balls. Roll out balls into a 4-inch circle, allow to rest for ten minutes, then roll into a 6 inch circle. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high, until good and hot. Now the magic! Take a dough circle and use your hands to stretch another inch. Place on the skillet until bubbles start to appear. Use tongs or some such implement to flip the dough and cook until bottom is lovely and golden brown. Flip again and cook until the bottom (the other bottom?) is also golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack and brush butter on either side to your heart’s delight. If you desire, sprinkle on a bit of sea salt. Rip into it! Eat, dip, devour.