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Who Killed Lard?

 
 
Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 10:54 am
Who Killed Lard?
February 3, 2012
by Robert Smith - NPR
All Things Considered

Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby's restaurant in Brooklyn, recently put a word on his menu you don't often see anymore: lard. The white, creamy, processed fat from a pig. And he didn't use the word just once.

For a one-night-only "Lard Exoneration Dinner", Silver served up lard fried potatoes. And root vegetables, baked in lard. Fried chicken, fried in lard. Roasted fennel glazed with lard sugar and sea salt. Pies, with lard inside and out. All from lard he made himself in the kitchen.

"It seems funny," Silver says, "but for thousands of years this was the thing that people cooked with.

A century ago, lard was in every American pantry and fryer. These days, lard is an insult.

"The word lard has become this generally derogatory term associated with fat and disgustingness," says Dan Pashman who hosts a food podcast called The Sporkful. "Think about Lard-ass, the character from the movie Stand By Me. I mean, he didn't want to be called Lard-ass."

How did this delicious, all-natural fat from a pig become an insult? Who killed lard?

Lard didn't just fall out of favor. It was pushed. It was a casualty of a battle between giant business and corporate interests.

A hundred years ago, lard was big money. The lard-industrial complex was based out of slaughterhouses in Chicago.

"These people when they packed their pork, they had a lot of lard left over," says William Shurtleff, an expert on the history of oils and fats who works at the SoyInfo center. The lard sold well, he says. Nobody thought twice about buying it.

That changed Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle.

So we have our first suspect in the killing of lard: Upton Sinclair.

The Jungle was technically fiction, but it's hard to forget the section on the men who cooked the lard.

They worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open vats near the level of the floor.... their peculiar trouble was that they fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,—sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!

"He definitely wanted people to be grossed out by the entire meat-packing industry," Shurtleff says.

Sinclair had the motive and the opportunity to kill lard, but he couldn't do it alone. People didn't have much of a choice of cooking fats that were stable and you could keep on a shelf. Lard would survive until there was alternative for frying or baking.

For that, we have to turn our investigation to two other suspects: a candle-maker and a soap-maker named William Proctor and James Gamble.

A hundred years ago, the company they founded had a problem. Proctor & Gamble owned a bunch of cottonseed oil factories that produced oil for use in soap and candles. But with the invention of the light bulb, the candle business wasn't looking so hot. What to do with all that extra oil?

The company's problems were solved by a mysterious visitor. Eyes on Tomorrow, a history of the company, tells this story.

In 1907, a German chemist, E.C. Kayser, showed up at Proctor & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati with a marvelous invention. It was a ball of fat. It looked like lard. It cooked like lard. But there was no pig involved. It was hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

"You can draw a clear line between the invention of hydrogenation and Crisco," Shurtleff says.

Crisco (vegetable shortening) was designed in a lab for one purpose: to replace lard.

People were already queasy about the meat industry after Upton Sinclair's novel, but Proctor & Gamble had some work to do. Unlike lard, Crisco was made in a lab by scientists, not necessarily an appetizing idea back then.

Proctor & Gamble turned all that to its advantage. It launched an ad campaign that made people think about the horrible stories of adulterated lard. The ads touted how pure and wholesome Crisco was. The company packaged the product in white and claimed "the stomach welcomes Crisco."

Proctor & Gamble perfected the modern art of branding with Crisco. It sent out cookbooks touting how good Crisco made you feel. It shipped samples to hospitals and schools, then bragged about how those institutions trusted Crisco. It rushed onto the newly invented radio waves, sponsoring cooking programs, that featured, what else, Crisco.

Poor lard didn't stand a chance.

In the 1950s, scientists piled on, saying that saturated fats in lard caused heart disease. Restaurants and food manufacturers started to shun lard.

It's only been in the last 20 years that nutritionists have softened their view on saturated fats like butter and lard. They say that some of it in moderation is fine.

And those health claims by Crisco and other makers of partially hydrogenated fats turned out to be exaggerated. The products contained trans-fats that we now think contribute to the clogging of the arteries. (Crisco, by the way, no longer contains trans-fats.)

Now that science has backed off, and new food laws prevent the horrors of The Jungle, is there a chance for lard to return?

At the Lard Exoneration Dinner, Bubby's owner Ron Silver says its time to bring it back. Lard is showing up at high end restaurants, drizzled on potatoes and layered onto coal-fired pizzas. Silver says it's intimidating after 100 years of bad press to put the word back on the menu, but he's embracing it.

"I'm proud of it. I'm waving my lard flag," he says.

Just try the pie crusts, he says. Then decide.
 
ossobuco
 
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Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 11:13 am
The article was interesting, stuff I didn't know about the history of Crisco, for example.

Dyslexia used to render his own lard, and his comments got me to research lard on google a few years ago. There is lard and lard: there is hydrogenated lard packaged in the grocery store, and there is home rendered lard, for example from pork rinds or chicharones, that at least one site said was less saturated than butter. So now there is rendered lard in my refrigerator, plus some bacon fat. Next time I gotta label which is which.

I quickly googled lard just now and see all sorts of articles on how relatively healthy it is... well, the rendered non-hydrogenated kind.

At one point I started a thread on it - Dys and Farmerman and Plainoldme commented on which pig fat was best to use, Plainoldme saying leaf lard is best for pie.
Cooking Adventures - lard
http://able2know.org/topic/144628-1
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 11:36 am
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Interesting article.Thanks for finding it B
0 Replies
 
mismi
 
  3  
Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 12:27 pm
@ossobuco,
After reading article after article about lard and oils and high fructose corn syrup and butter and margarine (the list goes on)....

I have concluded that staying as close to whole foods (food in their natural state) is the best route - always. Unfortunately - there is even a question of milk (the pasturization process apparently renders milk less than healthy) being best in it's raw state. But - how do you make time to go to the closest dairy (not so close) to get raw milk?

So - I just do my best to eat the questionable in moderation and to be as generous as possible in my purchase of whole foods. It's not easy though. Lard doesn't scare me...neither does bacon fat, or any kind of natural derivative. It's a matter of how much I ingest that becomes a question of health.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
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Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 02:38 pm
Who killed lard? I have my eye on Maggie Simpson. She already gotten away with shooting Montgomery Burns so I believe she has the ruthless heart of a killer! Mad
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
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Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 02:49 pm
Given the choice between lard and hydrogenated vegetable oil, I choose lard.
maxdancona
 
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Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 03:01 pm
@edgarblythe,
Given the choice between lard and broccoli, I choose lard.

Food cooked with lard is absolutely delicious.
ossobuco
 
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Reply Sat 4 Feb, 2012 03:39 pm
@maxdancona,
I'm not in love with broccoli or cauliflower, but I like them both best roasted with a drizzle of olive oil..
0 Replies
 
saab
 
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Reply Sun 5 Feb, 2012 02:37 am
German pensioner's tin of 64-year-old lard still good enough to eat (but who'd want to?)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2096001/German-pensioner-Hans-Feldmeiers-tin-64-year-old-lard-good-eat.html#ixzz1lUjcr51i
BumbleBeeBoogie
 
  2  
Reply Thu 3 May, 2012 11:38 am
@saab,
Lard Is Back In The Larder, But Hold The Health Claims
May 2, 2012
by Nancy Shute - NPR

Could you taste the lard in a freshly-baked crust?

What secret ingredient makes the pie crust so crisp and flaky? If you're from the Midwest, you may have guessed: Lard. The pig fat reviled for decades as supremely unhealthy is undergoing a lipid rehabilitation by American chefs and home bakers.

Think lardo, the cured pork fat served in thin slices on bread that's served from the kitchens of trendsetting chef Mario Batali. And farmers markets increasingly sell lard rendered from heritage pigs so you can try a fancy version at home.

And a new cookbook, "Lard: The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Grandmother's Secret Ingredient", tries to make the case that the world is ready to once again enjoy lemon nut cookies and buttermilk pound cake made with lard. They even suggest it might be good for you, or at least not as bad for you as other stuff.

But, really?

We know, we know: There are some cultures that have never quite given up on lard. Mexican tamales usually require it, and then there's Ukrainian salo, the Eastern European equivalent of lardo. But to many Americans it's a bit of a retro novelty — if they've even heard of it.

I was no stranger to the lard-as-dessert-ingredient concept, having been raised in a Midwestern household with a one-gallon bucket of lard in the freezer. It was a big factor in my mom's famously delicious pie crusts. And it's been harder to find in recent years. I had to call several grocery stores to find it for the pie I tested recently on the NPR science desk staff.

So it's no surprise that most of my testers were stumped when I asked them to identify the secret ingredient in a chocolate pecan pie. Only two, intern Ted Burnham and reporter Elizabeth Shogren quickly IDed the mystery lipid. Editor Alison Richards, who grew up in England where beef tallow is commonly used in desserts, praised the crust's ever-so-faint whiff of the barnyard.

OK, so we've established that lard is tasty. But is it good for you?

Even in the early 1900s, long before lard, butter, and other animal fats were implicated in heart disease, lard was lambasted for being unhealthy. When the vegetable shortening Crisco was introduced in 1911, as NPR's Dan Charles explained recently, its makers advertised it as being more digestible than lard.

Crisco and other partially hydrogenated vegetable shortenings were later found to have their own health issues, most notably trans fats, which were found to contribute as much to heart disease as saturated fats. But lard remained unrehabilitated.

Recently, however, people have been touting lard as a "healthful" animal fat. The authors of the new lard cookbook note that lard contains 40 percent saturated fat, compared to butter's 54 percent. That 14 percent difference doesn't sound like a big deal, frankly. They're both bad on saturated fat when compared to vegetable oils, which typically have less than 10 percent. I checked with some lipid experts.

Sure, lard is healthier if you compared it to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils like Crisco, according to Tong Wang, a lipid chemist and professor in the department of food sciences and human nutrition at Iowa State University. But that's not to say that lard is better than highly unsaturated omega-3 oils, like olive oil, which are considered the healthiest fats out there. "All are relative," she told The Salt in an email. "And the big question is quantity!"

If the lard is consumed as part of pork, she explained, and in moderation, then it's fine. But replacing healthy oils with lard, and eating a lot of it, would be a bad idea.

Lard partisans also note that unprocessed lard typically is made up of about 45 percent monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart healthy.

Wang is not swayed by that argument. Lard also has cholesterol, she notes, as do all animal fats. And that 45 percent fat can still be a lot, depending on how much you eat.

Add to this that lard sold in supermarkets is often hydrogenated, to make it shelf stable, and you've got a product with cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fat, too. Oh my.

But all this nutrition talk isn't enough to make me abandon lard in pie crust; it's a family tradition. But I don't think I'll be bringing back the bucket of lard in the freezer tradition any time soon.
0 Replies
 
 

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