Blatant Lardism

What do so many people have against lard? Commenters have pointed out that a big reason lard fell into disrepute in the middle of the last century was because of its association with poverty. I think that’s at least partly true. If you look around at all the places where lard was popular in the early 20th century (the American south, rural Mexico, Hungary, Italy, Spain, the list goes on…), one thing that was common to them all was poverty. As I’ve written before, pigs are terrific poor peoples’ food. They’re easy to take care of, they grow quickly, breed prolifically and eat just about anything.

Today poor peoples’ food is all the rage (except of course among the poor). The reason: because people of wealth no longer differentiate themselves by avoiding the habits of poor folk. In fact quite the reverse is true. Today’s rich people adopt the clothing, language, music and cuisine of poor people to demonstrate authenticity.

Foodwise, the cuisine of poor Mexicans , poor Hungarians, poor Italians and poor Spaniards (the list goes on…) is today widely known and celebrated. However there’s at least one group of poor people who cultivate a cuisine that nobody celebrates, at least not with a straight face: American poor people. Or perhaps I should say modern American poor people, especially those in the Appalachians and southern US. These unfortunate folks are the yokels not just of their own nation, but of many other nations besides. It’s a heavy burden they bear, and it’s for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they will — and often do — eat lard. I think that most of us in the States, if we’re honest with ourselves, will admit to having an instant hillbilly/hick association with the word “lard.” Does that make us all closeted “lardists” in some way?

I think it does, and I suggest that to atone for our unjust and unwarranted discrimination against a subgroup that doesn’t deserve it, we all eat more lard.

12 thoughts on “Blatant Lardism”

  1. Can’t say I’m with you on EATING the lard (basically a vegetarian) but I won’t argue with USING it in baking. You keep mentioning the leaf lard or something that I’m not familiar with or the process to make it usable. I’m looking forward to that blog!!

    On a sidebar you mentioned “poor people food” and I can’t help but think of my stepfather who was always eating “like you have money”. To his dying day he preferred store-bought cookies to homemade and white bread to whole grains due to growing up poor and seeing whole grains and homemade cookies as “poor people food” and affluence being more notable using store products and more refined and tasteless or at least fake flavored food. I can’t say I’m not happy we are back to eating like poor folks in eating real food and getting away from packaged junk that isn’t worth eating. Just a sidebar about your comments on how “cool” it is to eat like poor folks now. LOL

    Thanks, Joe, for a good series on fat and lard and butter, etc. Love it!!

    1. I’ll put up something on leaf lard today, Linda!

      And it’s not just your stepfather…immigrants from all over the world prized the white breads and sweets that are/were so abundant in America. That truly was food for the rich at one time. I myself love all that stuff, so I’m a switch-hitter when it comes to the whole rich/poor thing, but I definitely see your point and appreciate your insight! Cheers and thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  2. When I’ve rendered lard for my own use (using the oven) both times it’s turned out to be both very tasty and a terrible cooking grease. I couldn’t shallow fry in it, for example, because everything I tried to fry, from eggs to ham to pancakes, stuck so badly that it seemed sugary, although I checked for sugar residue and there was none. I wound up using it in baking (lard biscuits on top of oven stews, yum) and it worked well for that, but I’d like to know if it was just the wrong kind of pork fat (likely, since it was huge sheets of fat I trimmed from cheap roasts and refused to waste), incorrect processing (long fairly low heat baking, leaving yummy cracklings,) overblown expectations on lard’s cooking grease abilities (butter, which I love, isn’t an all purpose grease either, maybe lard’s not good for frying?) or something else. No lardism allowed in my home, by the way. *smiles*

    1. Hey Jeannine!

      GREAT question. You’re totally right about leaf lard or other firmer pig fat: it’s a lousy cooking grease — for the same reason it’s a great baking fat or deep fry medium. It’s all the saturation. By and large it’s the fats with lower saturation that make better pan grease: oils or soft animal fats like bacon grease. It sounds like you did everything perfectly, just need to either use a different fat in the pan, or combine it with a little vegetable oil as people often do when they sauté with butter.

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

    2. Hey Jeannine!

      I was just doing some checking for a new post on lard and discovered that I’d led you astray somewhat in my last comment. It’s true that very highly saturated fats aren’t very good for cooking. My mistake was called leaf lard a highly saturated fat…it’s medium-saturated which is why it has a butter-like consistency (butter is a medium-saturated fat as well so the two perform similarly). Check out the post, I think you’ll find it interesting!

      Sorry for the mixup,

      – Joe

      1. Thank you for the replies, and if you didn’t make mistakes now and then I’d just know you were hiding them. *grins* If I choose to fry with lard from now on I’ll treat it just like butter, then, and mix in a little oil so that I get both the good flavor and easy to flip eggs. Mostly I think I’ll just use it in baking, though. Those biscuits were really tender and tasty.

        1. Amen. Whenever I’m out of lard for biscuits my daughters ask what went wrong!

          Cheers and have a great weekend!

          – Joe

  3. I use lard instead of processed shortening. It makes a huge difference in baking powder biscuits. I did “splurge” and order some leaf lard from an online source, but since we don’t use much, the 3 pound container will last us a long time. I do keep it in the freezer / fridge, divided up into smaller containers. My other oil of choice is olive oil, which I use mostly for pan frying, etc. We also drink raw, whole milk. lol Your body needs fats to function, and used responsibly, they really are good for you.

    1. Well said, Cactus! I use leaf lard in my biscuits too (actually half butter and half lard). I don’t know what I’d do without it. Cheers and thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  4. ” a cuisine that nobody celebrates, at least not with a straight face: American poor people. Or perhaps I should say modern American poor people, especially those in the Appalachians and southern US. ”

    I’d say this is a pretty solid refutation:

    It’s kind of an ode to cake mix, too, despite not using them; you’d like her take on artificial vanilla.

    1. Hey Eric!

      I’m definitely open to your point, but I’m not following totally. My impression was that David Chang’s restaurants were pretty high end. Is this concept more along the lines of monkey bread and deep fried cheese? If it is I’m impressed….but remember, kitsch doesn’t count!

      Thanks for this link, I’ll look for this!


      – Joe

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