The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

August 21, 2013

Home to the Hills

Oldtimers lived long lives; bring on the lard!

— This morning I got adventuresome and cooked my own breakfast. Yes sir, I tossed caution to the wind, and the dirty cereal bowl into the sink. You would be surprised how different cereal tastes when you don’t wash the bowl. I guess that habit started when I was in the Navy Seabees.

One day I was sitting on the third step in the mechanic’s garage at 3:30 p.m., 1530 for you old salts, a half hour before quitting time; something I did every day, and yes the Chief chewed my tail that often. The coffee pot was one of the urn types you see at most all church dinners. It was so clogged up the hot water was pouring out of the sides. I took it to my shop, being a Steelworker 3rd class I knew how to shine it like new one. I was one proud Seabee. It was not long before that pride soon turned to fear.

The next morning one of the construction mechanics made coffee. I was there shining like a new penny. I couldn’t wait for the Chief to get his first cup of coffee. I knew it would taste good. That chief poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip. It wasn’t a millisecond before he spit the coffee on the floor, cussing the idiot that cleaned his coffee pot. Yep, that shine turned to pure unadulterated fear! Nowhere to hide, no cover and concealment and I knew that chief could get me anywhere in the world. So I stood up and said, “Chief, I cleaned the coffee pot!” Needless to say the butt chewing and shame made me promise not to ever clean a coffee pot. I haven’t to this day. Even my coffee hasn’t been cleaned.

Back to breakfast, in my Grandma and Pop’s days, running to the store and buying lard was unheard of. Why should they? After all they raised hogs just above the barn. The only thing I really remember about the pigs was a red hog.

Pop was cleaning out the trough to feed them, and when he bent over that red hog bit Pop right on his butt. Dumb pig! Pop yelled out some cuss words I never heard since I was just about 7 or 8. That hog went running, again I would like to reiterate, “Dumb pig!” Where was he going to go? A 20 foot by 20 foot pen leaves little room for hiding. Needless to say fresh pork was tasty at our Sunday dinner.

When they butchered a hog they would save the fat. They would put some fat in a pan, put on the stove and melt the fat off of the skin. Then they would let it cool and it turned into lard. The skin was called “cracklin,” because it was crisp and everybody would eat it like potato chips. I have heard that across the mountains some would put cracklins into their corn bread.

Grandma would use the lard for most everything when cooking. The nutritionists of today would have a fit. Fry eggs in bacon fat; make the flakiest best tasting pie crusts that warranted blue ribbons, use lard in biscuits, lard for burns, cakes, cookies, oh Good Lord how that food tasted so good. She would keep bacon fat on the stove that she drained off every morning into a can. Why not? Just scoop out what you needed, cook, bake and then recycle the fat that was left!

Many of the younger generation are probably thinking that the old mountain folks were wrong to eat like that. How mistaken they were. There wasn’t a national “obesity” problem back then. Why, you ask? Simply most everybody had to work and work hard to survive. Oh sure there was the fat people, but there wasn’t quite as many.

So let’s break out the lard and get healthy again folks.

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