Sunday, July 12, 2009


Isn't that one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen? A quart of pure, unadulterated, snow white lard, an amazing gift from a gifted baker.
Blasphemous to my quest for healthy living?
I think not. An indulgence, for sure. Lard, however, contains much less cholesterol than butter. Doesn't exactly make it good for you, though, does it? What fat does? As Julia Child said, "moderation." I eat fried chicken maybe twice a year, so big deal.
The big deal with this lard, however,was from whence it came. Fat from a whole pig was rendered low and slow - over two hours - in a baker's huge, outdoor brick bread oven. The pig had spent many happy hours foraging in an open pasture setting, NOT stuffed and fed grain inside a vastly crowded barn. Pasture-raised pigs tend to sport more fat, due in part from their breed and partly from their diet. Thus, there was an abundance of fat for the baker to deal with after he had slow roasted a very succulent loin of pork.
This generous man had prepared jars of this beautifully rendered lard and sold a few at the market, only to be given "cease and desist" orders from the Food Police since he did not have the proper permits for dealing with animals, only baked goods.
So when I visited during the annual Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project's farm tour, he confessed to baking more than bread. After I waxed poetic about flaky pie crusts and lard, he went inside and retrieved the above jar of beautiful lard, and with a wink, gallantly offered it to me. What a gift and an honor.
"Try frying chicken," he said. "It'll be the best you ever had."
So out came my grandmother's cast iron skillet and two plump chickens which I, raised right as a Southern girl, actually remembered how to cut up into frying pieces. I melted the lard, shook the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, and fried away, just like my grandmother had done. A huge after effect was all the grease splatters. I'm still cleaning.
But my Fourth of July chicken was the best ever. Crisp and succulent. My father gave it his blessing.
Now I can't wait to make a pie crust.

Okay, so it's not the real name of this half and half veggie, but I can't remember.
But its taste was quite memorable.
Thinly sliced, then sauteed in olive oil until just tender, seasoned with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of fresh thyme and oregano, it was delicious.
Summer squash qualifies, in my book, as FAST FOOD. Quickly slice or chop, then slowly saute. Or, split in halves or quarters and heat over a grill until just tender, which takes less than five minutes. It's amenable to onions, garlic and strong herbs, or just fine with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Easy and fast. And, available at your local farmers market. These were purchased Saturday morning at the North Hills Farmers Market. Maybe it was the bluegrass band playing in the square that the squash responded to.

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