‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’(FR 1.i.32)
What reader of Tolkien doesn't know Bilbo's famous simile? And who doesn't recall it on that morning years later when Pippin is shocked (shocked!) at the short commons of besieged Minas Tirith?
Pippin looked ruefully at the small loaf and (he thought) very inadequate pat of butter which was set out for him, beside a cup of thin milk. 'Why did you bring me here?' he said.(RK 5.iv.806)
But how many of us -- I'm looking at you, Joe Hoffman -- have ever wondered if we could quantify just how much butter a hobbit would deem adequate?
It.Comes.In.Slabs.They were washed and in the middle of good deep mugs of beer when Mr. Butterbur and Nob came in again. In a twinkling the table was laid. There was hot soup, cold meats, a blackberry tart, new loaves, slabs of butter, and half a ripe cheese: good plain food, as good as the Shire could show, and homelike enough to dispel the last of Sam's misgivings (already much relieved by the excellence of the beer).(FR 1.ix.154, emphasis added)