Musing On Butter Fat

February 04, 2006

I have been reading how much fat was in the American diets roughly 100 years ago. 

I remember talking with my grandfather about many things.  I have some of the conversations on tape.  He was telling me about the first time he ever had "store bought butter".  There must be a great difference in the taste between "home made" butter and the kind you get in a store.  It had to be memorable or he wouldn't have remembered the first time he ever had some.  I can't remember if he told me that story the last time we were together, or if it was the time before.  I know I probably have the conversation on tape.  He was 89 or 90 years old when he told me.  So I would imagine that this event really stood out in his mind.  Of course he also told me that in his family his parents held to the idea that "home made" was better than "store bought".  He talked like it was, as my Chinese friend would say, "a disgrace" to buy certain items at the store.  I guess it was a matter of pride for my grandfather's family to be able to make or grow most of their food at home. 

During this conversation, my grandfather also told me about the first time he had food made with hydrogenated shortening.  Normally he ate biscuits and the like made with lard.  But he was visiting an African American woman and she made breakfast with shortening.  I assume she was poorer than my grandfather's family. 

I made sure I asked my grandfather how they made lard.  I have good directions.  Now all I need is some nice fat from a pasture fed, (free range) organic pig or hog.

From what I understand, as people got richer they didn't want to eat foods of the farm. To me, this is one of the great mysteries of life.  Why would anyone willingly give up the healthy foods of our ancestors for the poor diets of rich people.  I guess as "they" became educated, they believed more and more the propaganda they read in newspapers and magazines. They wanted to eat the foods of "city people".  I don't know why that is.  Maybe they were like my mother and they didn't want to be thought of as "hicks". 

Things have really changed.  Most people wouldn't know what home made butter, made with milk right from cow, tastes like. Another thing, it was once poor people who ate things like hydrogenated vegetable oil fats.  Now days, it is considered that poor people eat things like lard.  I find it very odd, how "they" spend a great deal of time trying to get certain "ethnic" people to refrain from eating lard.  I remember seeing lard in one isle of the grocery stores in Texas.  And when these people were "poor" and they ate more or less their traditional foods, made with lots of lard, they were more round.  But when they got "richer" they ate less lard (supposedly) and they got thinner.  That's probably a stereo type that I picked up some how.  It may not have been happening that way at all.

February 20, 2006

It is amazing to me that it was at an African American house that my grandfather first had biscuits made with hydrogenated vegetable fats.

My step father told me that the best breakfast he remembered having, consisted of fried chicken etc.  (Don't know what the etc. would have been.  Probably biscuits and gravy.) The old books I have recommend that people (men) doing hard physical labor ingest more calories than a sedentary person---one book says that these calories come especially from fat and carbohydrates. 

I was putting some more of "our" (my) health books onto the library pages.  Some of the information is very interesting from a "historical" point of view.

From "The Guide To Health" 1943, "The Minimum daily essentials for health include one pint of milk, an orange or a glass of tomato juice and another fruit, potatoes and two other vegetables, at least one egg, one serving of protein, three slices of whole wheat or enriched white bread, and two tablespoons of butter".  If you ate like this today, "they" would say that your arteries would be clogged in a short matter of time.  They would say that heart disease and diabetes were eminent.  But in reality this is almost a good recommendation of a healthy diet. It needs a bit more protein maybe.  Oily fish.  By the 1940's they had stopped saying (believing) that condiments caused mental illnesses.  But this book warns against spices and using things like mustard in foods.  Not because it causes mental illness, but because it harms the digestive tract. What would a hot dog be without mustard?  I can see how too much spice and condiments would cause a problem though.  There is a great principle from The Bible, "all things in moderation".  There isn't a specific verse that herald's this truth.  But it is evident from reading The Bible that this is implied in many places.  It makes sense that using too much mustard, spices or pickles would not be best for the body. 

I will always crave my Granny's sweet pickles sometimes.  My cousin probably craves her dill pickles.  My granny thought her dill pickles lacked something important.  No matter what she did they didn't crisp up like they should have.  Many of us liked them anyway. 


I grew up thinking of my Granny as the ultimate cook.  Every "traditional" family dish was to be made according to her "standard".  She taught me how to make "chicken and dumplings" for example. (chicken-n-dumplins)  I was very glad to learn how she made it.  I stayed with my aunt and uncle for my grandfather's funeral. (October 2005)  I was shocked to learn that my Granny did not like chicken and dumplings. My uncle informed me that Granny's was not the standard I should aspire to when I made this dish.  He said that when she didn't like something, she didn't cook it properly.  I know Mom had always talked about how Granny's menu was limited because there were many things she didn't like.  But, I did not know it applied to her chicken and dumplings.  Well, whatever you grow up eating that is what you aspire to when you are grown.  That is always "comfort food" to you.  I read a short-story about this guy who always complained about his wife's cooking.  No matter what she did, she couldn't cook good food.  She went to fancy cooking schools and such like.  Nothing worked. It never tasted like "mother used to make". Finally she was late getting home one day.  She rushed dinner and it burned.  She apologized for "ruining" dinner.  This one time she had managed to cook something that tasted like his mother's cooking.  The one time she botched it, she got it "right" in her husband's eyes.  Even though Granny may not have made chicken and dumplings "correctly" that is still my "standard".  I like them that way.  I wish my uncle would give me his recipe so I could stick it in my recipes.  I ought to try his recipe and see if it is better.  I can't judge it until I have tasted it.  It has to taste better than the canned variety.  I have had that and it isn't too good.  It's a pretty famous brand name in "The South", "Sweet Sue". I had never heard of it until I moved to Ft. Worth.

Speaking of fats... I have discovered pimento cheese on raisin bread.  Very good!!!!  Probably not good for you---our pimento cheese has a laundry list of ingredients we can't pronounce.  And the raisin bread is white bread with raisins.  It tastes good though.  I wish they could make pimento cheese without the pimentos.  Mom told me that it would be "pimento cheese" if they did that.  I think it would be much better though.  They would call it "cheese spread". 

Ok this is enough for now.  I will write more on this some day maybe.  This page may be ongoing.  So check back with it once in a while to see if there's more on here.