On a blog site a few days ago, while looking at roast beef recipes, I commented on my centuries-old recipe for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, handed down to me from a little English lady born in 1896, in Yorkshire. (She died here in Morrill at age 103.) It was her family recipe from her great-grandmother — and who knows how many generations before that.

In answer to one of my remarks about the recipe, including using the drippings, fat and all, for cooking the Yorkshire pudding in, a comment was posted by one Dennis, who opined: “For the sake of your health and the health of the animals it’s best to eat very little animal products.”

“Well, Dennis,” I responded, “first off, the part about ‘for … the health of the animals it’s best to eat very little animal products,’ you’re probably right. It can’t be too healthy for the animal if one eats its “products.”

“But get a clue, Dennis. Here, start with this: meat and animal fat are HEALTHY, especially pork fat, aka lard. The fat-free diet craze has run its course and even health practitioners are now admitting that we need a good dose of fat on a regular basis. Contemplate this, Dennis: Man (generic, feminists. Don’t get your knickers in a twist) survived for tens of thousands of years eating plenty of fat. It’s the KIND of fat that makes the difference.

“Just get organic, grass-fed beef, grow your own animals and hunt your own ‘wild’ meat — the kinds of meat, until the last 50-60 years, we all ate. It’s not “animal products” that are unhealthy — it’s the chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones and other crappola the big ‘manufacturers’ of meat put in it and feed their animals grown in pens with little to no fresh air, green grass and natural vitamin D that’s the problem. (And, by the way, Dennis, if you don’t eat meat or much of it — hope you’re taking vitamin B-12 … else you’ll likely be (are?) grumpy, pale and pimply.)”

I left off with “Dennis” there and didn’t bother waiting for a response.

But I was reminded of my childhood up on the farm, at the end of Tucker Ridge, in the 1930’s and 40’s with my Grampa Roy and Grammie Tucker. All of our meat came from the barn or the woods. The beef critters had fresh green pasture, blue skies and sunshine, and soaked in the vitamin D. The roasts and chops had a good layer of fat. Yum.

Nowadays, you have to preorder them to get even a thin layer left on ’em. The deer, bear and rabbits from the woods were even more natural. (We couldn’t legally hunt moose then.)

A nice layer of fat, roasted brown with salt and pepper — and a touch of ginger on pork roasts or chops, bone in — is where the best flavor is. It also helps keep in the flavor and moisture while cooking.

Breakfast on the farm would most often be with bacon or pork chops with fresh eggs — from grass-scratching, free-range hens, scooping up lots of greenery and protein-rich bugs and grubs — cooked in the bacon grease. Grammie Tucker had a can for draining off the leftover fat. Then, of course, there were the lard pails full of her snow-white “organic” lard that she made at butchering time.

I only went down to the barn one time to watch the process of Grampa Roy and Uncle Milo at butchering time: the killing, the dunk in the barrel of scalding water, the hanging and scraping and then hauling on a sled up past the farmhouse, down to the workshop — leaving a blood trail in the snow —and hung up for processing (and more blood).

I watched Grammie make the sausage and thanked the powers that be that I was too young to help. Then later, I watched Grammie take the thick, white pieces of fat back to render on a big pot on the old black Clarion for buckets of lard. She used the lard not only for frying, but for her biscuits, pie crusts, etc.

I still use lard for my pie crusts and I render my own lard but I do not have anything to do with the butchering process, thank you all the same. (You can still get lard in the grocery store but it’s been hydrogenated — which changes its chemical structure. I lean toward foods that come as nature made ’em.) I found a farmer up state that sends his organic fat back down for me.

However, I “do” my lard a bit different, in that I don’t render it on the top of the stove. A good old black Clarion is the ideal, but on top of an electric stove, it would take far too long and all but constant stirring. So I put my fat back — I cut the hide off and cut the fat into small chunks — into a good-size roasting pan and stick it in the oven at 225 degrees for about two hours, mashing it down every now and again with an old-style potato masher.

When sufficiently rendered, I strain it into sterilized canning jars — half-pint — let it cool down a bit and cover with sterilized lids, making sure not to touch any part of the lids with my bare fingers as that would likely contaminate them and cause mold to grow, like it does so quickly on bread or cheese if we touch it.

This lard is as white as white gets and will last for months. The only fats/oils I use are lard, coconut oil, grapeseed oil and ghee (rendered butter that I make same’s I make the lard — using unsalted, organic butter. You really don’t want the non-organic butter with all the hormones, chemicals, and antibiotics — the later of which is given the cows to help combat the mastitis that occurs in “factory cows” and results in pus in the milk/butter, do you? I can’t even eat non-organic ice cream with that thought in mind. Now it’s in your mind. Sorry.)

An aside about lard versus other cooking fats: lard is mild tasting, has a higher burn point than most fats, making it ideal for tasty sautéing and frying as well as much cheaper — if you make your own — than, say, olive oil. It’s also healthier than most cooking oils used now. Olive oil smokes faster, tends to add its own taste to the foods and goes rancid too quick. Canola (rapeseed oil) is mostly grown — contaminated with — GMO’s, and vegetable oils are trans fat/saturated fats.

There isn’t room here to explore the health and taste benefits of lard, but you can easily look them up with a “lard healthy” Google search. You might also want to look up “schmaltz,” which is rendered chicken fat, delicious for frying — or waterproofing your moccasins. (Save up those “Pope’s Noses,” the fatty lump of chicken that the tail feathers grew out of, in the freezer until you get enough for rendering.)

When I was a kid on the farm, I don’t believe the word “organic” was in use. Things were just naturally grown that way.

It’s exciting to see farmers and people, across the country and here at home, going back to growing and eating foods grown the “old” way. And more people are now growing gardens or buying from their local Farmers Markets. Just think, in a couple months, it’ll be time to pour over the seed catalogs — and get a piglet?

P.S. — My New Year’s Resolution this year? Same as every year: “Make no New Year’s Resolution.” Haven’t broken it yet.

Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast. She now lives in Morrill.