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January 23, 2013

Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah
Friday, January 25, 2012

LARD-EATER

Background:
Moab, Utah, is such a small town that we have no dry cleaners.
The locals don’t wear clothes that need that kind of care except on dress-up occasions such as weddings and funerals and graduations.
Most people are wash-and-wear no-iron when it comes to daily wear.
Not much wool or silk – just cotton and synthetics and blends.
Our position is that if you have to iron it, don’t wear it.

The whole cycle takes place in the laundry room at home.
Dirty clothes go in a basket by the washer.
When it’s full, the load gets washed and moved on to the dryer.
Meanwhile, you dress out of the basket of clean clothes next to the dryer.
Nothing needs to be folded and put in a drawer or hung in a closet.

Everybody in the family gets their own basket.
If you’re shy, you can haul your basket into your own room to dress.
If not, you dress in the laundry room.
It’s a simple life we lead.

How do I know this pattern?
I ask or snoop or talk with plumbers and appliance repair people.
And it’s also the truth about my own house- habits.
Folding and hanging is for neat-niks, and I am not one.
Clean and dry is all that matters.

If you do need something dry cleaned, there’s a collection station downtown where stuff gets sent off to Grand Junction, Colorado – takes about a week or ten days.

Pause. More background.
Many people in Moab are food and diet conscious.
Lots of vegans, vegetarians, and people just plain careful about what they eat.
Organic, natural, local – those are the prime adjectives employed.
It’s a sign of intelligent good health or else obsessive foody madness, depending on your point of view and appetite.

Keep those two pieces of background in mind as you read on.

Here’s a conversation in the local dry-cleaning drop-off station this week:

“I have this rug – one out of my kitchen - a long woven runner actually – that got a lot of cooking oil spilled on it – and I was wondering if it could be sent to the dry cleaners in Grand Junction to be cleaned.”
“How much oil?”
“A frying pan full – it’s pretty well soaked.”
“What were you doing?”
“I was about to make Navajo Fry Bread for some guests.”
“What kind of cooking oil?”
“Well . . . lard.”
“LARD!  Oh my god, you were cooking with LARD?”

I thought she was going to faint or cry out for help.
She kept saying, “LARD – you were cooking with LARD?”
“Well, it’s the Navajo way.”
“But you’re not a Navajo, are you?”

“LARD,” she shouted over her shoulder to someone in the back room, “This man was cooking with LARD!”
“OH MY GOD! REALLY?”

Lard is pig fat, of course.
Lard is four-letter word in some circles in Moab.
I could probably go in the front door of the local organic co-op, the Moonflower Market, shout “LARD! LARD!” and people would run out the back door as fast as if I shouted FIRE!

“Well, to each his own,” I said, “But that’s what happened.”
The clerk looked at me as if I should be sent to the dry cleaners in Grand Junction.
A thorough cleansing would be appropriate for a lard-eater.

The clerk wouldn’t accept my rug – the owner of the shop was not in and I would have to bring it back and talk to her.
So I rode around with the rug – in a car that smells like pig fat now – as do I.

Word gets around fast in a small town in winter.
And I would swear that before I finished my errands in town there were people giving me suspicious looks – and pointing.

“See him? A lard-eater.”
“No, kidding. I didn’t think lard eaters lived that long.”

I was afraid to go into the Moonflower Market.
They would have smelled me out right away.
I might get banned from the store.

In truth, as with many food trends, science makes some useful reversals.
I did my web research on the subject.
Lard now is actually considered better for you than vegetable shortening and margarine and even butter.
Seems it’s more of a religious dietary issue than a health one.
Jews and Muslims, for example, aren’t supposed to eat pig fat.

Well, what can I say . . .
I wonder how the Navajos think and feel about this?
Apparently not much.

If you’ve ever had a Navajo taco with maximum chili . . .
Or eaten flaky Navajo Fry bread with honey and butter and powdered sugar. . .
Good. Another four letter word.
Lard is the secret to the delicious taste.
The Navajos have some good ideas about food, if you ask me.
And if you visit the reservation, you’ll see a lot of very old Navajos.