Lard almighty

At first my vegetarian fiancée sat patiently and bemusedly by as I seemed to triple my red meat intake for Caveman Month. However, thanks to my simulated paleolithic cooking choices, she says our condo is starting to smell as though a dingy fast food restaurant has its exhaust fan pointed through our kitchen window.

As a caveman, I’ve chosen to cook with lard — an animal fat — over olive or canola oil.

My reasoning starts with this: You’ve got to sit there and squeeze a hell of a lot of olives before you end up with enough  oil to grease up your veggies. It seems to take 5.5 kilograms’ worth, or perhaps 1,200-1,600 olives, to make a litre of the golden fluid, at least according on my back-of-envelope estimate based on this and this.

Quite a few paleos rely on olive oil to make their food interesting, but, to concur with this fellow paleo blogger, I just don’t buy the idea of extra virgin olive oil as a Stone Age food.

I’ve not turned up my nose at grilled veggies at the work cafeteria, or during my one Cave Month restaurant visit so far, for being cooked in olive oil. However, I’m not using the stuff at home. It would be too easy to fall back on olive or other vegetable oils to make my food interesting. Meanwhile, it’s not hunter-gatherer food as I understand it.

Cooking with animal fats makes sense for a pre-agricultural person. You’re not going to spend your whole life squeezing thousands of oily plants when you’ve got fatty stuff sitting around from your kills anyway. Make that delicious fatty stuff, no matter what my fiancée says.

On the other hand, yes, I know lard is rendered in a factory and thus should count as a processed food. At least when selecting mine at the grocery store I chose a brand that wasn’t hydrogenated. Incidentally, finding the lard took a long search. I ended up having to track down a shelf stocker to ask him where it was; turns out the lard is next to the shortening, with the oils.

Why buy pre-made lard instead of making it myself? Because I couldn’t in good conscience render pig fat in my house. Cooking with it is trauma enough for my special lady friend.

I imagine your typical caveman would have found the pantry empty of meat on many occasions, so as a 21st-century cave poseur I’m having some vegetable meals myself.

On the plate you see below, I have sauteed collard greens, sauteed mixed mushrooms with parsley and garlic, and roasted turnips and Jerusalem artichokes.

All of it was slathered with a bit of lard prior to cooking. Result: Me like.

6 Responses to “Lard almighty”

  1. Michael S. Says:

    Fiesta farms has tubs of rendered duck fat, which is much healthier than lard. I’ve been using it a lot, its pretty tasty.

  2. Vegetarian? You can only be a veg if it’s convenient. In winter, there are no vegetables. We only have them because we can ship and truck them in. Just thnk of the carbon footprint…

  3. I second the recommendation on rendered duck fat! But coconut oil is another great paleo-friendly cooking oil to consider. Tropical Traditions and Green Pastures both have terrific virgin coconut oil products that, in bulk, are quite reasonably priced.

    Green Pastures in particular sells a gallon (8#) of VCO for $39. I love their 75% VCO /25% grass-fed ghee product, though the ghee is arguably less paleo.

  4. Wouldn’t coconut oil still be relatively processed?

    If you’re cooking chicken you can easily render that fat out of the skin. E.g. remove the skin from the chicken thighs you use in something else, cut it into strips, and either fry it down (and the skin ends up as a marvelous crispy salty snack (well, if you salt it)) or put it in a covered pyrex on an overturned plate in the microwave (far less mess), again until the skin’s crumpled up and gone crispy. I usually throw the liquid out as I’m looking for the gribenes* but you could use it later for cooking.

    Same goes for bacon fat, maybe, though I don’t know whether you’re eating bacon.


  5. Actually, Extra Virgin olive oil would be pretty stone age. That’s the oil that seeps out on its own as you pick the olives – the pressing is done by the weight of the olives, not by mechanical means. Cold-pressed or any other type of pressed olive oil would not qualify as paleo.

    Neither would Canola oil actually. That stuff is made by lots of flaking, grinding, and pressing. Definitely not paleo.

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