Sunday, June 07, 2009

Lard? Really?

Slate published a story on Tuesday about how lard's supposedly making a comeback. With all of the frantic foodies tripping all over themselves to sing the praises of meat consumption recently, this progression (or regression, really) doesn't seem that far-fetched. Slate's Regina Schrambling wrote:

I'm convinced that the redemption of lard is finally at hand because we live in a world where trendiness is next to godliness. And lard hits all the right notes, especially if you euphemize it as rendered pork fat—bacon butter.
Schrambling goes on to laud lard as being an essential ingredient in much authentic (e.g. Mexican) cuisine and to focus on its apparent health benefits (e.g. she says that since it has a higher burning point that frying chicken in it leaves the chicken absorbing less of it -- sorta irrelevant for most of the folks who read this blog, I'd say).

Schrambling also stresses the superiority of lard to shortening, calling the latter the "go-to solid fat" of the '90s. That's like promoting low-tar cigarettes as a healthy thing by comparing them to cigars, really. Plus, in the last ten years, I don't think that I've purchased a single cookbook that's ever called for shortening in any of the recipes. Touting lard as a better option to something that's not really used much in the first place is misleading.

She also states that the saturated fat in lard has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. Someone should inform the American Heart Association of this, since
it's still asserting that saturated fat does indeed raise bad blood cholesterol and it lists lard several places on its website where it discusses minimizing one's consumption of saturated fats to avoid heart disease.

In case anyone has any doubts, Schrambling pretty much clarifies which bandwagon she's hopped on halfway through her short piece, stating that:
[w]hat matters more, though, is that lard has become the right ingredient at the right time. It fits perfectly into the Michael Pollan crusade to promote foods that have been processed as minimally as possible: Your great-grandmother surely cooked with it, so you should, too.
She then wraps up by waxing on about the environmental / sustainability motivation to return to using lard, getting all hot and sassy post-Pollan foodie-style by describing how its usage is finding a niche in high-end restaurants and quipping that "[l]ard is just about the last stop before the squeal when pork producers are extracting every savory bit from a pig". 'Cause Schrambling thinks that pigs are things, don't you know.

So head's up to all: "Lard: Coming soon to clog another artery near
you!"

7 comments:

Melissa said...

Gak.

Mylène said...

Indeed!

Chandelle said...

I have quite a few friends who follow after a sort of cult-like group called the Weston A. Price Foundation...I'm sure you're familiar with it. These friends are huge supporters of cooking with lard, suet, duck grease, any fat from an animal, really, plus butter of course, and humongous quantities of it. They especially like to cook animals in the animal fat and then top that with a gravy made from animals and cow's milk and garnish that with some more animals and dairy products. Because hey, their GRANDMOTHERS did it like that and EVERYTHING our ancestors did was COMPLETELY RIGHT AND GOOD.

Chandelle said...

Sorry, venting some frustration there. Most of the people I know are into this WAPF/Nourishing Traditions thing and it's really started to wear on me. I read that book and it was such a steaming pile of horseshit, I was astonished that so many of my otherwise very intelligent friends had been sucked into such drivel. :(

Mylène said...

No need to apologize for the venting; I'd be frustrated as well. The Weston A. Price Foundation is well-known for its anti-vegetarian, anti-vegan and anti-soy stances. It goes to great lengths on its website to disparage the safety of animal-free diets and to promote the whole idea of the "humane" raising of animals for slaughter.

It makes me very happy that it's listed on Quackwatch.

Chandelle said...

I did check out the articles on Quackwatch, and that was informative, but Quackwatch also bashes the PCRM and, incidentally, the school I'm attending. :) So I'd be leery of selectively sending anti-WAPF articles to my crazy friends. :D

Mylène said...

"but Quackwatch also bashes the PCRM"

Zoinks! I had no idea. Thanks for letting me know.