Lard, lard, wonderful lard. A thing eschewed by many in these health-conscious times. A thing misunderstood.
So straight away kudos to someone who had the foresight to even think that a book about lard should and would be published. You can understand Jews and Moslems being less than enthusiastic about lard due to its porcine derivation, vegetarians might decline it but then it leaves more of it for the rest of us. More of this diverse pig fat rendition that has, over time, been used for lubrication (not, one believes, of a sexual nature!), lighting, cooking, soap making and even eating in its own right.
From early on you can sense this has been a work of, err, passion (nothing related to the foregoing paragraph) by the authors. Here you get a bit of a lead on a "secret ingredient" being used by many chefs, a background to this versatile waste product and 150 recipes that all call for a dollop (or more) of lard.
Lard can have a bad reputation. In this health-mad world all fats are often wrongly viewed as being bad for you, yet lard has just over half the saturated fat of butter and can be free of trans fats. When used it can transform a recipe, making it a rich, elaborate dish without "sounding" too many warning bells. And boy, it can be a much better dish than those weak fat-free substitutes that are often promoted as being part of a health programme.
Who cannot enjoy a book which manages to title its introduction "the lingering legacy of lard"...?
The introduction is, in fact, relatively concise but informative and there is even a methodology for rendering your own lard (1. take pig fat, 2... ) Then it is straight on to the good, honest recipes. Here the recipes are split by chapter - bread and biscuits, vegetables, main dishes, cookies and brownies, pies, cakes and desserts. There is quite a broad selection of recipes for you to try that may evoke memories of family food from the past as well as possibly giving you a number of new dishes to consider. The recipes themselves also feature many tips and bits of information and are easy-to-follow.
Everything in this book feels concise and compact yet it does not seem to make the book any less desirable. Short, relevant and to the point. No gloss or filler (or could one extrapolate the pun and say that there is no extra fat on this book to render down later..?) Perhaps the editors have been TOO good at their rendering (editing?).
The book finishes with a resources section, metric conversion table and very comprehensive index. It would have been nice to have seen more photographs of the dishes being featured as the few pictures that are present are very inviting and encourage the reader to want to try them out.
There is not a lot to dislike about this book, if you do not have religious or moral reason for the use of pig fat within cooking! Some things could have been included to make it even better, but no real problems either. The usual niggle about the lack of signposted preparation/cooking time with the recipes not withstanding.