The Big Deal About Lard... and Does Fat Really Make You Fat? May 21 2016

Growing up, I was taught to fear fat.  I was told to avoid butter, to eat egg whites, but not the yolk, to drink nonfat milk, and to pull the skin off chicken.  My mother had high cholesterol and was determined that we would be a family of healthy eaters.  Does this story sound familiar?  Have you been taught to fear fat?

Traditional cultures have enjoyed an abundance of animal fat in their diets.  This used to be true of Americans as well.  At the beginning of the 20th century our kitchens were stocked with lard, tallow, chicken fat, and butter.  However, in the 1950s, American scientists suggested that animal fat raised our cholesterol and increased our chance of heart disease.  Animal fats were replaced with manufactured fats that were marketed as the healthy alternative.  

Even though we reduced the intake of animal fat, we added more carbs and sugars to our diet.  The result today is that we gained weight, have similar levels of heart disease and the rates of diabetes and cancer have increased.  At the same time,  people like the French and Inuits continue to eat diets high in animal fat and maintain healthy weights and have low levels of heart disease.  So is fat, especially high quality animal fat, really fattening? Recent research and thousands of years of empirical evidence suggest the picture is much more complicated.

At Back to Basics Kitchen, we believe that fat is essential to healthy eating.  Fat - even saturated fat - is needed to repair and protect our bodies, and it tells our brains when our stomachs are full.  We use animal fat in our cooking to help enhance texture and flavor.  Below are three reasons why fat is great for cooking.

Fat is Fuel - Despite what we’ve been told, we need all types of fat.  It is a great source of fuel for our body, providing us more than twice the energy as the same amount as carbs and protein.  It also helps us digest protein and absorb important fat-soluble vitamins that cannot be absorbed without it.

Fat is also extremely grounding. For those of you fellow doing-five-things-at-once, mind racing, unsettled feeling folks out there, fat can make a huge difference in feeling more centered and solid, not to mention satiated.

Fat is Flavorful - Fat helps release flavors from food and keeps meat moist and tender.  Without fat, food can be bland, dry and missing pleasurable texture.  Let’s face it, fat tastes good!

Fat is Good for Cooking - Fat keeps food from sticking to pans and is the substance that caramelizes and crisps our food.  You want to make sure you are using fats that are higher in saturated and monounsaturated fats (animal fats) because these remain stable at higher temperatures. Lard is particullary stable at high temps, making it amazing for fried chicken, and fried anything, really. 

Not into frying? Try sliced cabbage sauted in lard with sea salt and apple cider vinegar. So simple, so deeply satisfying and delicious.

Want to cook with high quality animal fat?  Try our Rendered Pork Lard. It’s a neutral, pure cooking fat (it won’t make your food taste like pork or bacon) from lovingly raised pastured pigs at Jodar Farms.  It will make your breakfast eggs and sauteed and roasted veggies really POP! This is the prettiest, purest fat we've seen.

I, Susanna, used it as my sole cooking fat for three week road trip last fall and ate an entire pint in that time. I felt grounded and satisfied and really enjoyed my food - especially the veggies cooked in fat!

Get all kinds of ideas for cooking with an rendering your own fat from this amazing book: Fat the cookbook

Fat Makes a Stellar Cleansing Agent -

Fat—good animal fat—is uniquely akin to our human skin biome, containing Vitamins (A, D, K, and E) in readily absorbable form. It’s high in the anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic fatty acid CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) as well as palmitoleic acid, which is antimicrobial. Fat can purify and moisturize your skin.  This is one big reason why soaps have traditionally been made from animal fats and they work.

So we're thrilled to offer high quality, totally natural body care products as part of our online ordering.  Skin is our largest organ and absorbs what we put on it.  We’d like folks to have as healthy options for their body care as they have for their diet. Thankfully, the lovely ladies at IE&Y in Boulder have started making one of the hardest natural yet functional body products to find- deodorant.

PITS Deodorant features farm fresh fat - we know because we’ve rendered locally raised tallow (beef fat) for them - and it is totally free of crap.  And it TOTALLY works. This is the best deodorant we’ve tried. Bri and Susanna have both been wearing it during long kitchen hours and hot summer farmers’ market days.

Our days have been stink free! Yours can too. Get your deo (and learn more) here.