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Many of the things I’ve learned over the years had a romantic haze of Ingalls/Wilder fog obscuring the reality of the thing. I read and dreamed about a pioneer life and thinking how wonderful it would have been to live on this continent when things were untainted and undeveloped. Each time I learn a new thing I realize that it was a pile of non-stop hard work (which I knew in theory) the resources of energy and the drive of need just aren’t there to sustain. I think we have devolved from these strong minded women who did what needed to be done with no other options to ones who run to the store for a frozen pizza when we just don’t feel like cooking. I’m not saying that’s wrong, I’m just saying that it’s a far cry from our pioneer and immigrated ancestors.
Where did all our strength go? Is it mostly in our thought process? Our plethora of inundating paralyzing yet useless information and news? Too many issues and not enough real life?
Anyway, this post started because I’m rendering pig fat into lard. While most of you might think “YUCK” I had a rosy wholesome glow in my mind about it. It hasn’t been hard work, but it’s not been a “have to” it’s only been a “want to”. I’m thinking about the women who HAD to to this in order to have soap to wash their family and their clothes, house, dishes. They didn’t have the luxury of running to the store for detergents and/or even handmade artisan goats milk soaps that smell so lovely. They had a pig, fed it the slops, and used every part of it in the fall when they butchered it. They didn’t even buy feed. Sometimes they would just let it go in the woods and eventually find it in the fall. But if they couldn’t find it, they were out their lard for soap, and much of their fat for cooking.
With the lack of fridges, freezers and trucks making daily trips from Mexico and California, the fat was a very, very important and necessary source of calories, vitamins and minerals. There’s a passage in Farley Mowat’s “People of the Deer” where one of the guys is so sick from eating so much lean meat (ie. NO FAT as there was nothing for the elk and rabbits to eat except twigs) and no veg that the only thing that helps him is to drink a pound of melted butter or lard ( I can’t rightly remember). The settlers had to have that fat to survive. We have no such feeling of need. Well, I don’t anyway. My need is mitigated by the ease of running to the store.
While I love all of this pioneer, make-it-from-scratch, do-it-yourself stuff, sometimes it’s just not pretty and romantic (okay, 90 % of the time it’s really not romantic and pretty). I’m driven to learn it though, so I keep trying.
so, here’s a pot of rendering pig fat… nice hey?