That was a bad idea

Today has been such a wonderful day. The weather outside is my favorite!  Cold, rainy, dark…I love it. I turned my Christmas trees on first thing (well, after my first cup of coffee) and smiled ’till my ears hurt. What a joyful thing to have the cold weather. Because I was in such a great mood (although I had a pile of laundry 4 feet high to wade through) I decided to surprise the munchkins with homemade french fries with lunch. You know – pommes frites, papas fritas. I’m so cultured…I know.

My Mom made the BEST french fries when I was growing up. She had this electric skillet she would use. When my sister and I saw that appliance sitting on the counter, it usually meant one of two things: pork chops or Mom’s french fries!  We definitely preferred the fries even though Mom does make a killer pork chop. 🙂 Anyhow, I have been reading about what a “fine southern cook” does and does not EVER do. I learned that a true southern cook would never dream of frying in anything but lard. Lard? Really? My Mom used Crisco, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Mom is from Montana, after all.  Lard is plen-tee-ful down here. It takes up 2 shelves at the grocery store and comes in a giant 25 pound bucket all the way to the tiny size. I had purchased the small size because I had also read that the secret to the flakiest pie crust ever was lard. I chickened out for the pies, so I still had my tub o’ lard in the pantry.

I peeled the potatoes and ran them through my Bosch french fry cutter (yes, they make one and yes, I own it…it is pretty much a food processor attachment that fits on my Universal.) The spuds were sliced and ready so I got Old Faithful,  the cast iron skillet out and dropped in the lard. It began to heat up on my speedy gas cooktop. Within minutes, I began to detect an odor that was not pleasant to my delicate nose. I walked back into the kitchen from my laundry room lair. With each step towards the stove, the pungent aroma was growing stronger. When at last I arrived on the scene, I realized I was smelling the aroma of the melted and warming lard. Ladies and gentlemen, I can only describe this smell as “melted year-old pork rinds.”  I feel like I should mention to you that I am not a fan of pork rinds.

Undeterred (or perhaps too lazy to start over), I carefully placed the potatoes into Old Faithful. I was rewarded by an immediate sizzle like none I had seen in all my Crisco days.  It would have been french fry heaven if only I could stand to breathe the same lard-smell-infested airspace. I could not. I had to leave the kitchen. I went on the hunt for any scented candle I could find. I found 4 and lit them all. I kept reasoning that restaurants and home cooks use lard all the time. It was unlikely to poison us, right? (RIGHT?) I began to get sick to my stomach. I only returned to the kitchen to check on the progress.

When at last the fries were cooked, I drained them carefully while holding my breath (it’s a good thing I have had years practicing swimming laps without taking a single breath), liberally sprinkled them with salt and pronounced them ready for consumption. The boys were dancing around like elves on Christmas Eve. They seemed to not notice the aroma.  I placed a serving of the frites on each lunch platter along with the rest of our lunch and waited to see what the boys thought. You didn’t think I was going to try them first, did you? I mean, really.

What do you know? They loved them. They declared them “delicious” and “so yummy.” I tried one. I had to plug my nose without them noticing. I chewed and swallowed and survived. I had a Sprite chaser.  The boys happily finished off the rest of the batch.  I guess I will never be a true southern cook, because lard will not be invited back to my house to play. I’ll stick to the Crisco the next time I get a hankering for some good old-fashioned homemade fries.




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vanessa
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 19:25:52

    I remember that smell! Ha!


  2. Nana
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 17:59:06

    Janna, This article was so funny. I can just see you do that! I bet I would have eaten them. I also grew up with that smell. i don’t use lard hardly ever but I usually have a small container for baking purposes. LOts of times, fish are fried in lard. ha ha Oh well. I am glad the boys liked them. Love, Nana


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