Find out why lard could be the new health food – seriously!


Friday 19th  March 2013 

  • With 20% less fat than butter are you missing out on an tradional superfood?

  • The Americans reckon that cooking at home makes you less healthy...Eh!

  • The mad world we all live in needs a steadying hand, and quick.

So, here’s a thing... lard fat good for you?

If this sounds like a trick question I certainly didn’t mean it to.

You see I was making my way to my publisher last week and had the radio on in the car.

The news chat settled upon a ‘report’ that suggested that modern cooks were turning to lard.

I immediately imagined the much missed Richard Griffiths, star of the TV programme ‘Pie in the Sky’, who was a rotund fellow – and none the worse for it I might add.

But it wasn’t a comment on the onset of obesity amongst our chef patrons across the land – no it was a return to the traditional cooking ingredient derived from rendered pig fat.

Apparently the story ran that they had discovered not only did it improve flavour in food, but was actually offering health benefits over other food oils and fats.

Now when I got to the office I nearly burned a hole in the internet search engines looking for this ‘report’ but I’ll be blessed if I could find it – but the whole thing did set me thinking.

We are bombarded with accusations that we are eating too much fatty food, deep fried everything and cholesterol rich titbits.

However, are all fats created equal?

I mean for example, if I have traditional homemade mincemeat pies where a bit of lard is put in the mix, and the pastry is lard rich is that worse than a fast food burger loaded with fat fillers and cooked in sunflower oil?

In a Guardian article from 2009 Oliver Thring discussed how our grandparents would eat bread with lard and salt on it, and how the traditional British chip should be fried in the stuff.

Just imagine how such a diet would play in the modern media now!

Oliver postulates that despite this being the only fat our forebears cooked in they were not the ‘lard bums’ (cleaned that up a bit!) that we are led to believe we would become if we emulated them.

So what is going on in the world of cooking that made us turn against the humble lard in favour of special oils, spreads and fats?

By any estimation, lard is a healthier fat than butter. Gram for gram, it contains 20% less saturated fat, and it's higher in the monounsaturated fats which seem to lower LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind) and raise HDL (the "good"). It's also one of nature's best sources of vitamin D.

With all this in its favour, and the boost it provides to flavour, maybe it explains why it is becoming popular again.

Or perhaps it is because we are all getting just a little weary of food company propaganda, finding our palates yearning for true flavour and our bodies for really valuable fuel.

Having said all of that...

...I know that not many people cook in butter these days (any that do I’ll be glad to join for dinner!) and that oil is the medium of choice – however even our oil isn’t free from problems.

Olive oil has been the subject of scams where it has been ‘watered down’ with inferior product, rapeseed oil has been found to have traces of insecticide in it and corn oil has been blamed for making American bellies double in size.

So, it maybe worth investing in a tub of properly rendered lard from your butcher or meat counter just to revel in the complexity of its flavour, and discover how light a lardy cake can be...

...or how crunchy a real pie topping becomes – I’m sure Henry Crabbe would have approved.

Does home cooking make you less healthy?

In a packed radio bulletin the team dredged up yet another story that I can’t ignore and must tell you about.

It seems that someone has decided that home cooking is as bad for our health and we would be better off eating takeaways.

No really that’s what they said!

It was study conducted in America and was presented at the Population Association of America meeting earlier this month.

The research team apparently found that for every ten additional minutes that the average American spends preparing food, they were less likely to spend ten extra minutes exercising each day.

The logic being applied was that as our kitchens were optimised for ergonomic usage of space we no longer needed to move far as we cooked – and so we weren’t getting any exercise.

Plus as they were spending their ‘free time’ cooking they couldn’t get to the gym to exercise.

I was laughing so much I nearly put a rib out...

...surely this was just the beginning of a blatant push by a takeaway pizza company to say “don’t sweat over a stove, sweat down the gym and get fit – let us make dinner for you!”

Not that I want to be doing the work of the vile advertising toadies who propagate such nonsense you understand, but it was such a blatant marketing scam I was surprised the BBC allowed the story through.

Let me be absolutely clear on two things here;

1) Home cooked food, made from basic ingredients will always be healthier than anything made in an industrial process.

2) The nutrients you obtain from fresh vegetable, meat, fish and fruit will provide you with better nutrition than twenty handfuls of vitamin supplements a day.

Discouraging anyone from putting on their pinny and spending an hour making a delicious soup, stew, pie or even a cake is tantamount to a hanging offence in my book.

A strange week indeed

There you have it, the story of my journey from Bristol to Banbury, and a little insight into to what my poor ol’ brain deals with on a daily basis.

I guess what we should all realise from my experience is that our lives are subject to malicious outside influences.

That on the periphery of our awareness the work of the big companies chip away at our historical food values, acting to subvert the common sense we all know to be right.

We have been encouraged to drop locally available or homemade lard and dripping in favour of exotic Olive oils and commercially produced vegetable a rapeseed oil.

The media trots out guff about how we should all eat processed microwave food after we get back from the gym.

And for all I know they will soon be telling us that Eastern European horsemeat is actually better for us than free range chicken – just wait for it!

Stranger things have been known.

I’ll be back on Sunday with a disturbing tale about the dangers lurking in your bathroom – it’s OK the loofah hasn’t gone native, it’s what’s in your body wash and shampoo that I’m going to talk about.

Right now I’m off for a bit of fresh bread with beef dripping on it – can anyone else hear Richard Griffiths chuckling with delight too?

Yours, as always


P.S. Going back to the story about folk spending time in the kitchen rather than at the gym – even if they hadn’t spent the hour in the kitchen just how many of them would have taken exercise instead? Isn’t it more likely that they would crack open a beer and sit in front of the telly instead?

Just a thought!








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