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No, not in the lard!! - Bending Reality to my Will

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August 12th, 2005


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03:18 pm - No, not in the lard!!
For reasons of some mystery to us both, people seem to assume my husband's a vegetarian. He was, for a while, in college, but discovered not eating meat wasn't really healthy for him. So, although he strongly prefers to eat food grown organically, he's hauled me off to Taco Time on more than one occasion.

The one food-related ingredient which he aggressively avoids are trans-fats. Being a doctor and all, he's unusually familiar with all the relevant studies and whatnot. Some fats (I discovered to my surprise) are as important as Vitamin C to your health; thus the designation "Essential Fatty Acids," of which the "Omega-3s" are the most well known. Other fats (there are two kinds: fatty acids, and cholesterols) are also part of the entire "food in, life goes on" system of digestion.

Plant fats are almost always runny liquids, aka oils. Animal fats are usually cholesterol solids: grease, butter, lard, and other things commonly called "fat." A few decades back, animal fats were decreed "fata non grata." So the food industry created margarine: plant oils converted to solids by adding extra hydrogen bonds. Presto! Thus Crisco was born. It's just like lard, but made from low-cholesterol plant fat! Yay!

But adding hydrogen bonds to some (partially hydrogenated) or all (fully hydrogenated) of the linking sites of some molecule of fat makes it a different fat. If you hydrogenate alpha-linolenic acid (an Omega-3) or any other fat that your body has a specific use for, you've converted it into a "junk" fat. Not all forms of fat have specific assignments in your body, and any extra "good" fat, and all "junk" fat, will be treated like, well, Fat! The classic "nine calories per gram eat and grow large" aspect of fat that dieters are so dreadfully familiar with.

So, some 'natural' fats (although not all!) are also nutrients. No hydrogenated trans-fats are nutrients.

It gets worse. There is some evidence that a trans-fat version of a nutritive fat might be picked up by the same cellular mechanisms that process "good" fat into various important chemicals with long fancy names. If it does this, then it will sort of "jam" the normal mechanisms, taking up a slot that should have gone to a useful fat, but getting stuck part-way through the process since it isn't really the fat that it appeared to be. So trans-fats might merely be junk fat, or they might actually interfere with your ability to metabolize essential fats, causing even the good fat to just go right to your hips or wherever instead of being turned into prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. [No, I don't know what they're for, but not having enough is a Bad Thing.]

All right, so I don't treat my body/my temple with quite the same reverence as my husband. I still buy and eat Hamburger Helper even though it's got some partially hydrogenated oil in it (in addition to the un-runny-ness, hydrogenated oils are far more resistant to oxidation; they won't go rancid in a box like a natural oil). But I did throw out the partial can of butter-flavor Crisco, and the margarine I had for cooking 'cause it's so much cheaper than butter.

All well and good, but for one little flaw. Chocolate Chip Cookies require their fat content to be half butter, half Crisco. I swapped in all butter ("hey, it's all fat") but that makes them too flat! And I'm not about to compromise on my cookies! So I told my sweetie "I'm sorry, but for this one recipe, butter or natural plant oils won't do. The cookies must have shortening. Trans-fats must come back."

Of course, the recipe calls for Crisco because it's a substitute for the real ingredient: lard. So here I am at the store, shopping for Crisco ("Hmm. Cute little round can, or butter-shaped stick?"), and I spot, right next to them . . . lard! Lookie there! A little tub of lard! Perfect!

Oh.      My.           God.

LARD

Lard and Hydrogenated Lard

BHA, Propyl Gallate and Citric Acid

Added to Help Protect Flavor



They hydrogenated the lard!!!!

They hydrogenated the lard!

They hydrogenated the lard.

What the hell?
Current Mood: infuriatedvexed beyond V

(6 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:scarlettina
Date:August 12th, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)
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I am HUGELY entertained by this. ::chucke::
[User Picture]
From:mischief_wa
Date:August 12th, 2005 11:35 pm (UTC)
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Ah-Hah!

I've been questing for the right chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’ve tried butter, margarine, longer cook times, shorter cook times, larger dollops… all ending with flat cookies.

I have to say Scott has been enjoying my attempts.

*rubs hands together*

Goodie, now I can try again!
[User Picture]
From:bedii
Date:August 13th, 2005 11:10 pm (UTC)
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One of the most entertaining articles I've ever clipped from The New York Times appeared in the Wednesday food section some years ago--if I find it again I'll try to remember to make you a copy. The main thrust was "O.K. let's admit it. Some recipes require lard to work. These companies make the best lards to use in food--either order them via the web or get your store to order them. Use 'em in good health, and don't tell your friends why your pie-crusts are so much flakier and better tasting then the stuff in stores."

I find this entertaining because I keep picturing the conversation where a) the story was assigned, or b) the story was pitched. "Yah, Joe, you did a great job in your last article: time to show what you can do with lard."
[User Picture]
From:kate_schaefer
Date:August 14th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC)
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What my mother (and her mother, and my father's mother) used for lard was bacon grease, carefully saved in an old coffee can in the back of the refrigerator.

You can't do this, of course, because you don't have old coffee cans, since you don't drink Folger's or Maxwell House.
[User Picture]
From:snarke
Date:August 14th, 2005 07:21 pm (UTC)

Cans of grease

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Yes, but MY mother always kept her grease in peanut cans, not coffee cans. Whenever our current can 'o grease is getting full, I pick up more cashews!

However, we almost never eat bacon, so the grease can's primarily ground beef drippings, which also has lots of water in it as well as bits of hamburger, so I don't think it'd really work. I guess I could heat it all back up, boil off the water, and strain it . . . good grief.

On the other hand, I don't need very much. On the third tentacle, bacon's so completely meant to be cooked in the microwave, and that involves a different mechanism for retaining the grease. Hmm.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 16th, 2005 01:43 am (UTC)

Re: Cans of grease

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Dave:

I keep bacon grease and can give you some, should you want it.

best,
Hank (who's only just been learning to check out what's going on on LiveJournal as a way to keep up with his friends)

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