Elizabeth (Lisa) Swenson lives in out state Minnesota and visits local swap meets on Saturday mornings. One day, among rows of antique tables and chairs, bed and bath linens, and vintage kitchen supplies, she found and purchased a three dollar quart of home rendered lard to make a favorite recipe of fried doughnuts. That venture being a success, she looked to her collection of cookbooks for more recipes with lard. In most cases, the natural shortening had been replaced by hydrogenated vegetable oils so she began to research old world recipes from a time only lard was available. The Artisan Lard Cookbook of Old World Breads and Spreads is the happy and delicious result.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
As a child, I was a small town girl whose parents owned and operated the area feed mill. Our meat products came from the local locker plant where animal products sold. Poultry, beef, and pork raised on local farms were often on our table -- eggs and fresh produce supplemented meals. Rendering the fat of hogs was a common practice, and we included the piggy product in our menus as well. In this lifestyle, we ate close to the source and the value of the practice was instilled in me.
I also had the good fortune of two strong grandmothers. On the maternal side was Christina, a dark-eyed first generation American with the high cheekbones of the Slavic nations. Her kitchen smelled of vinegar, cabbage, roast pork, and wild game. On my father’s side, Gustava was a Swedish immigrant. Her kitchen wafted aromas of fresh pastries, stewing chicken, and rice pudding. Both lived to be octogenarians -- an amazing age for their time. I believe it was due in part to their diet of unadulterated fats. Little did either of them know that the lard they used was unsaturated, or realize their old world recipes would eventually succumb to a blitz of prepared hydrogenated products.
Today, I am the grandmother and remain focused on the importance of eating “source to table.” Rendering artisan lard is a great place to start.
The Artisan Lard Cookbook of Old World Breads and Spreads opens with a few fond thoughts on source to table living and continues with a step-by-step description of home rendering lard. This practical old world cookbook shares kitchen tested, European breads and spreads recipes that use lard in their construction, and concludes with a helpful glossary of cooking and baking terms.