A Facebook friend wanted some crowd-sourcing help for a piece she was editing. Her query asked readers to end the sentence “When you think of lard …?” My answer was: “When I think of lard I think of Wiltshire lardy cake. Delicious. I also think of my mother – 75 years a vegetarian – who made the exception for lard because it was the only way to get a good pie crust.”
Here’s a poem that pokes fun at our food fears and fads.
by Paul Gerard Reed
You never see adverts for lard on TV
I asked myself how could this be?
Lard, I know, is not a substance sublime
But still proved vital during the wartime
Now it seems lard is out of fashion
Since the scrapping of the ration
And now we are obsessed with all things ‘low fat’
That seems to be the end of that
How about sponsoring a lard revival
After all it helped survival
During the dark days of World War Two
Without it there might have been no ‘you’
So abandon silly phrases and no longer utter
That you still cant believe it’s not butter
Instead lets play our high-fat trump card
‘One of your five a day – a pound of lard! ‘
In fact you do see ads for lard – perhaps not on TV – but there seems a minor cottage industry of mock lard ads. Here’s an example.
Lard is somewhat back in fashion with the interest in gourmet lardoned recipes from France and Italy and in the UK with a resurgence of traditional British cooking.
So off to check with the expert: The Book of Household Management by Mrs Isabella Beeton. Published originally in 24 monthly parts 1859-1861 and in a bound edition in 1861 is was the enduring and indispensable guide – to – well just about everything.
Along with the recipes for roasted larks, beef collops, barley gruel and jugged hare are detailed instructions for all the servants and this method for melting lard.
TO MELT LARD. 825. Melt the inner fat of the pig, by putting it in a stone jar, and placing this in a saucepan of boiling water, previously stripping off the skin. Let it simmer gently over a bright fire, and as it melts, pour it carefully from the sediment. Put it into small jars or bladders for use, and keep it in a cool place. The flead or inside fat of the pig, before it is melted, makes exceedingly light crust, and is particularly wholesome. It may be preserved a length of time by salting it well, and occasionally changing the brine. When wanted for use, wash and wipe it, and it will answer for making into paste as well as fresh lard. _Average cost_, 10d. per lb.
And you thought it came from the supermarket.
There are so many fascinating digressions – the book is a trove of information. Here’s one on the language of food. Did you know that the names of the animals are Saxon and the names of the food Norman. And in that of course is the history of who won the Battle of Hastings, who tended the livestock and who got to eat the food and name it.
NAMES OF ANIMALS SAXON, AND OF THEIR FLESH NORMAN.–The names of all our domestic animals are of Saxon origin; but it is curious to observe that Norman names have been given to the different sorts of flesh which these animals yield. How beautifully this illustrates the relative position of Saxon and Norman after the Conquest. The Saxon hind had the charge of tending and feeding the domestic animals, but only that they might appear on the table of his Norman lord. Thus ‘ox,’ ‘steer,’ ‘cow,’ are Saxon, but ‘beef’ is Norman; ‘calf’ is Saxon, but ‘veal’ Norman; ‘sheep’ is Saxon, but ‘mutton’ Norman; so it is severally with ‘deer’ and ‘venison,’ ‘swine’ and ‘pork,’ ‘fowl’ and ‘pullet.’ ‘Bacon,’ the only flesh which, perhaps, ever came within his reach, is the single exception.
This is an actual vintage ad for lard from the British Library. Until the 19th-century, fat was relatively expensive and butter was a luxury. The poor lived mainly on potatoes and bread supplemented whenever possible with whatever source of protein and fat they could afford. Lard was used for cooking and when hardened it was also spread on bread and eaten as a snack. These days lard bread aka prosciutto bread is a sought-after delicacy.
And here’s some of that delicious Wiltshire lardy cake:
Kilvert’s lard was the subject of a lawsuit in 1898 when Kilvert admitted to adulterating the purity of the lard by adding beef stearine. Kilverts Lard (without the apostrophe – and probably the beef stearine) is still available.
And below a painting of the Manchester factory where it was made. I couldn’t find the name of the artist.
Home Notes, London 1896 has an ad for Kilvert’s Lard and several lard recipes including one for grilled lamb’s head. The Tasty Cakes at left may be more in line with modern sensibilities.
But back to the indispensable Mrs. Beeton. Just look at these gorgeous illustrations