“Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary parts of the whale’s flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of blubber, and often participating to a considerable degree in its unctuousness. It is a most refreshing, convivial, beautiful object to behold. As its name imports, it is of an exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a bestreaked snowy and golden ground, dotted with spots of the deepest crimson and purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of citron. Spite of reason, it is hard to keep yourself from eating it. I confess, that once I stole behind the foremast to try it. It tasted something as I should conceive a royal cutlet from the thigh of Louis le Gros might have tasted, supposing him to have been killed the first day after the venison season, and that particular venison season contemporary with an unusually fine vintage of the vineyards of Champagne.”
â€”Moby Dick, chapter 94.
I was raised on olive oil. I was for most of my life not fully aware that there really were other cooking fats. I knew we kept ‘vegetable oil,’ made from vegetables, presumably, I think for popping corn. Butter was for baking with.
Things change.Â At the moment, we have duck fat (pictured), bacon fat and leaf lard, in the refrigerator. We frequently have tallow (beef fat, as hard as wax) and chicken fat. Usually twice a year, after holidays, we have goose fat, a favorite. All of these, with a small investment of time,Â are free for the not-throwing-away. In the case of lard it’s usually a matter of someone else throwing it away, but if you ask nice, it’s still usually free.
As much as I love olive oil and butter, there are some things that other fats do better. Poultry fat, for richness of flavor, cannot be beat. Leaf lard, as everybody knows, though hardly anybody has tried it, makes the best, flakiest pie crust. And not only that: lard-butter pie crusts are easier to make than butter-only ones. But lard is good for pan-frying, too: a little heavy, perhaps, but iconic in greens and beans, and good especially for use in the cold months. We don’t get much tallow on account of our not eating much beef, and the beef we do eat (don’t know his name, this last one, but he was an intact, one-year-old grass-fed bull) hasn’t got much fat on it. I suspect however that it has a higher smoking point than some other fats, though. I am still learning.
We keep a few other fats on hand, like coconut oil for popping corn, and sunflower oil, for I don’t actually know what, come to think of it. And I’m curious to play with grape seed oil and some nut oils, which I suspect I’ll get around to in good time. But those aren’t quite so free, or, now that I get around to mentioning it, local.