The Great Lard Freak Out

I remember the Great Lard Freak Out of the 1980s. People suddenly discovered that flour tortillas were being made with lard! (As they had been for centuries in Mexico, but anyway…) Suddenly lard was the culprit in a world of food ills. Much the same as MSG had been. “Our food made with NO LARD!” signs in Mexican restaurants would proclaim.

I don’t want Mexican food made without lard.

I believe quinoa was the progeny of this period of food freak out. So was margarine, which is one of the most terrible products on earth ā€” and far worse for you than lard. But lard retains its stigma. For skinny girls and starlets/yoga students, it’s the mayonnaise of meat products. There’s a cured Italian meat called “lardo,” but you’ll be hard-pressed to get any but the most adventurous eaters to try it. “Lardo??” your friends will say, “As in ‘LARD’!??”

Man cannot live on lard alone. Certainly if you ate too much of it you’d be courting problems. But that could be said of most foods (quinoa aside). The key to everything is moderation. A little lard in a tamale or tortilla isn’t gonna kill you — it’s gonna likely be better than the shortening used instead, and it’s going to taste a heck of a lot better. It amazes me that people put synthetic non-dairy creamer in their coffee. My cream come from a cow, where does your non-dairy creamer come from? A chemical factory. And you’d rather put THAT in your body?

You should seek out the things that taste good and natural in life, and eat them. When you want something creamy, eat cream. Eat a gelato, not a fat-free Splenda dessert. When you want healthy, eat a carrot. Eat good things in moderation. Stop eating before you are full, learn to be satisfied rather than gorged. If people could learn this in every area of their lives, we wouldn’t have subprime mortgage crises, epidemic obesity or skyrocketing personal bankruptcies. Eat food that is fresh, in season and local ā€” tomatoes will taste better in July, and they won’t bear a brontosaurus-size carbon footprint after their transcontinental trip from Peru.

I keep a cube of Farmer John’s lard in my freezer ā€” the kind in the red box you see at the grocery store that says “manteca” on it. It’s been there for a year or so. Every once in a while, when I’m making tamales or certain other dishes, I pull it out and shave a little off into the recipe. It makes the food taste a whole lot better. And it’s not going to kill me as fast as skinny girl’s Country Crock.

Next time you’re in a Mexican restaurant and are contemplating ordering a dish, ask if it has lard in it. If the waiter says yes, you say: “Thank you. That’s what I’ll have!”

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Benjamin Thompson
    Jun 18, 2011 @ 22:34:15

    I keep a block of lard in my fridge. And I also quietly await a jar of lardo from La Quercia sometime next week.

    I made tamales for the first time today. After rolling up about three of them, I decided that, like sushi, tamales are something that I’m going to leave to the experts. (They were very good though, all three of them.)

    The rest of the ingredients were promptly dumped into a baking dish to make a tamale pie.


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