Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Rebirth of Lard

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It's making a coming back, although it's been there for years. Are you ready for the rebirth of lard?

There is no doubt that we really do live in interesting food times. The choices we can make regarding our diet is mind-numbing. Or maybe a better word would be mind-boggling? Regardless of the proper word, for a majority of people in North America, we are lucky to have these choices. Of course, with many so many culinary roads to choose from, every so often it happens that the foods we've vilified, ignored or forgotten due to trends or dietary changes, can sometimes return. And right now, what's making its way back into the food limelight, after years in culinary purgatory - is lard.

Lard. You can already envision the visceral reaction upon hearing or seeing the word 'lard'. You can feel the cringes, the frowns, or the looks of absolute disgust creasing the brows of the general population. But here's the deal. Lard has already been making its presence known for some time now. It happened subtly at first, but the resurgence of lard to cooking has become a bit louder and brasher thanks to in-the-know chefs, restaurants and culinary professionals constantly scanning the horizon for the next best food trend.

And here's a harsher truth. Lard is not the evil demon it was once effectively portrayed thanks to overzealous heath conscious types, scientists and dietitians. In fact, it's been the science community whom have recently, albeit slowly, been backing away from their original crusade against lard, as well as other fats such as butter. There seems to be a general consensus, that yes, human do need a bit of fat in their diet. Scientific and lab created replacement products don't and won't cut it anymore.

So what happened? Why did lard - the basis of centuries of cooking and baking, leave the pantry and why is it coming back? According to NPR reporter Robert Smith, his research cites the original demise of lard on a number of factors. He names three culprits, which include a best-selling author, a chemist and a company called Procter and Gamble.

Upton Sinclair is the author of The Jungle, a book about the meat and poultry industry. Smith states that the book almost single handedly destroyed peoples taste for lard. Throw in a prime opportunity for a chemist named E.C. Kayser, who discovered that hydrogenated cottonseed oil, leftover from making candles, produced almost the same results and look as lard. Then partner that discovery with Proctor and Gamble to market this new lard alternative, called Crisco and voila - the end of lard in the household.

But after years of neglect, lard is back, bolder than ever. The composition of rendered animal fat - which admittedly reads terribly when it's written out, really does make a difference when it's added to a number of foods most people enjoy eating. Remember the kerfuffle with McDonalds fries? After making changes to the way the fries were cooked, thanks to a huge outcry against using animals fats, the famous fries did not taste as good as it used to. And it was noticed. Why? Blame health advocates for raising their voices to remove beef fat from the frying process. It was replaced by a hydrogenated version which makes you think, sure - that's so much healthier, thank you for making that change. Lets move away from a natural product, to a chemical one created from leftover oils that were used to make candles. Hooray for healthy alternatives.

Personally, I am thrilled lard is making its presence known again in the culinary world. I've always stated that a tasty life - in moderation, is a good life. By no means should you be introducing lard to your everyday diet, but go on, use lard when you make that pie and then tell me you don't notice an immediate difference when you bite into that crust.

Get out the red carpet. It's time to welcome lard back into your kitchen pantry.

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