Bring in the butter, ladle on the lard

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By Hardy Jackson

It was one of those great TV moments.

I was watching “The Big Bang Theory.”

Sheldon Cooper, the socially (awkward) theoretical physicist, had withdrawn from his friends and would not come out of his room.

Sheldon had issues.

His roommate did what had to be done – he called Sheldon’s mother.

Mrs. Cooper is one of his issues.

She came all the way from Texas, saw the problem, and to lure Sheldon out she made him his favorite food.

It worked.

Penny, the cute girl from across the hall, was amazed.

“It’s all in the secret ingredient,” Mrs. Cooper said.

“Mother’s love?” Penny asked.

“Lard,” Mrs. Cooper replied.

Lard.

I grew up with lard.

My grandmother bought it in buckets and fried everything friable in it – from chicken to peach pies.

Her daughter, my mother, followed in her footsteps, and during my childhood, lard was a staple in our house.

Then it disappeared, replaced by vegetable shortening, which was supposed to be healthier – less saturated fat or something like that.

I am not sure how much attention Mama paid to the health claims, because of the prevalence of pork in her cooking, our family continued to get our fair share of pig fat.

My father’s argument in favor of lard was simple and difficult to refute – “it tastes good.”

He said the same thing about butter.  When Mama started using a spread that supposedly you could not believe wasn’t butter, Daddy let her know right off that he could believe it. His opinion not withstanding, she continued to buy it because she liked the reusable containers (and, I suspect, just to show him she could).

So Daddy would have taken particular delight in a op-ed piece in the New York Times that announced to the world that “Butter is Back” – though I imagine Daddy would have wondered where it had gone to come back from.

According to the article, a “meta-analysis” published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that there was “just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.”

Then a few weeks later an article in the Washington Post announced that “lard may not be as bad for your health as the fat’s detractors say.”  

Now, without getting into all the scientific debate over the relative benefits and dangers of polyunsaturated fats, mono-unsaturated fats, trans fats and schmaltz, let me simply say that together these two articles make a good case for the way Grandma, Mama and most of the cooks of their generation fed their men.

The articles also confirm the old adage that “fat is flavor,” while giving us reason to ignore the advice of health food fanatics who tell us “if it tastes good, spit it out.”

But I digress.

My point is not what you shouldn’t eat, but what you can – and in some cases should.

You can, and in some cases should, eat butter and lard.

Grandma lived into her 90s. Daddy made it to 93. Mama hung up her apron at 98. Heart disease took my Grandfather away when he was barely 60.

Did the grease get him?  Maybe, but it also helped him enjoy the time he had here.

There is that.

Harvey  H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University.  He can be reached at hhjackson43@gmail.com.

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