We like Fat in everything we eat, but not in ourselves. We like to feel thin -- but we don't like our meals to.
Fat provides mouth feel and acts as a carrier for tastes and nutrients. Without it, what we are eating feels dry in the mouth, or thin and unsatisfying, as though you haven't just finished swallowing something. Sometimes the word is even used to describe how filling a wine feels in the mouth.
Fats naturally present in flour are necessary to help the gluten be elastic and hold the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast. Adding a small amount of additional Fat can in some instances increase the volume of a loaf of bread by up to 20%. But most of the increase comes with the very first amount of the added Fat: so it's not worth going crazy adding more because you won't see a proportional increase in volume. Adding some kind of Fat to a bread also helps the bread keep longer, because the Fat coats the starch molecules and helps them keep moisture in longer.
Fat makes pastry tender because it coats the gluten in the dough, so that the gluten strands can't adhere well to each other, which would make a "tough" crust.
The dilemma is that while saturated Fats are better in the kitchen -- they are better to cook with because they can withstand higher temperatures, and they store better -- they are not better when you're out of the kitchen and in the doctor's office, where you deny all knowledge of them.
Of the unsaturated Fats, several are absolutely essential to the body. Without them, the body can't absorb certain Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K.
The real kicker is when you remember all the fuss about how bad butter was for you because it was animal Fat. Food writers everyone duly parroted and trumpeted the news, causing many people to switch to margarine for health reasons as urged to by doctors, scientists, food writers and all the health industry. Oops. Turned out that margarine was just about the worst thing you could do for your body: it was bursting with trans-fats from making the oils solid at room temperature. Those who had given up their beloved butter must have been very cross indeed. Those who continued frying in bacon fat and butter while being lectured by people who fried in margarine must have had a hard time suppressing their smiles.
Saturated FatSaturated Fat is solid at room temperature. It is called "saturated" because the molecular chains of the Fat are saturated with hydrogen.
The table below by Dr. Sue Snider of the University of Delaware is interesting, in that it shows how wrong the popular wisdom can be: it shows Palm Oil, Coconut Oil, and Butter to be worse for you than lard (or by extension, bacon fat) in terms of Saturated Fat.
|Type of Fat|
|Palm kernel oil|
From: Sue Snider, Ph.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist, Food and Nutrition Facts, FNF-18 .University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, March 1997.
Literature & Lore
An ad that ran in many American newspapers in September 1947 said:
Yes, used fats are still needed, says Clementine Paddleford, Food Editor of This Week.
Here's the answer to you women who're wondering if you should still save used fats! Secretary of Agriculture Clinton P. Anderson says, "It is still necessary to conserve every pound of fat, since the over-all fat supply situation is little better now than it was last year." You see, many things we use require industrial fats or their products, and there aren't enough fats in the world to go around, as yet. So every pound we women of America can save will help. Please ... keep up the good work until we've got this situation really licked.
Keep turning in your used fats
American Fat Salvage Committee, Inc
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-- Gilbert Keith Chesterton (English writer. 29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936)