I’d never baked anything other than chocolate chip cookies. I figured it couldn’t be that hard, though, so I found some holiday cookie recipes that were well reviewed and printed them out.
As I was putting together my list of ingredients to buy at the grocery store, I noticed that one recipe for a cookie called Melting Moments required lard. Having devoted myself to a healthy lifestyle, I was befuddled.
““Hey, Jeff,” I asked 2Fs, “This recipe calls for lard. Isn’t that animal fat?”
““Yeah,” he said, not looking up from writing out bills.
I found his lack of reaction disconcerting. “Isn’t lard illegal?”
““No.” Jeff put his pen down. “Why would you think it’s illegal?”
““It’s fat,” I said, stressing the word. “It’s not good for you.”
“It’s not going to kill you in moderation.”
““But it’s fat,” I said. “That’s like hacking off a corner of a pig’s ass and sticking it in your mouth.”
““Well, not really, but it does make baked goods taste better.”
Having been assured by 2Fs that I wouldn’t be driven out of the neighborhood by an angry mob with dogs and torches, I drove over to Publix with my list of ingredients. Everything was easy to find except for one ingredient: Lard. I had never bought lard, so I had no idea where to find it. Finally, I approached a clerk who was stocking an endcap.
““Excuse me,” I asked. “If I were lard, where would I live here in the store?”
The young African-American woman reared her head back and eyed me with a suspicious expression, like I had just asked where to buy a truckload of fertilizer, a cell phone, and directions to the nearest federal building.
““It’s for baking cookies,” I added.
The clerk excused herself and went to ask someone for directions, since she didn’t know where the lard was kept, either. Finally, she returned and let me to the bottom shelf of a darkened section where ethnic foods were kept. She pulled a white and green box from the shelf and blew the dust off the top. In bright red letters I saw the word LARD. It looked like something Acme would manufacture in a Road Runner cartoon. I took the box, thanked her, and walked away. Feeling as if I was being watched, I turned and the clerk quickly glanced away. If lard wasn’t bad for you in moderation, why did I feel like a terrorist.
I took the lard home and opened it the package. Inside was a block of greasy, white, rendered pig fat. I wondered what it would be like to bite into it and cringed. Unable to put it off any longer, I scooped out the amount needed and added it to the batter.
I was hesitant to try the cookies once they were out of the oven, but I did … and they were delicious. Jeff was right: The fat really added to something.
On Christmas Eve, we delivered the cookies to the neighbors and the family at the last house invited us inside for cocoa. They raved about the cookies and asked what was in them. “Lard,” I said. Immediately, they all spit out the cookies in their mouths.
““It’s okay in moderation,” I said, “And it makes everything taste better.”
They shrugged and all reached for another cookie.