Jay Rayner on the joys of fat and lard

There isn't a proper food without fat in it. At a push, I'd even consider eating myself

Should the economic downturn become any more grave, and my family be forced to eat me to survive, I am confident the tragic loss would be more than compensated for by some seriously good dinners. After all, if pigs fed on the sweetest of acorns are prized for their flavour, then a Rayner fed on a diet of, well, most everything must be worth the effort. Most of all, though, I think I would prove a satisfying dish because I am rich in that which anybody who knows how to eat – and I mean really eat – always cherishes. That something is fat. My rump will be as marbled as the arse of a prize wagyu, my rib eyes shot through with glistening alabaster nuggets of something animal and saturated. And the only thing that would separate my belly from deliciousness would be a few good hours – what, eight? Nine? – of serious rendering in a hot oven, so that the fibrous meat was fully bathed in the hard-earned grease of a life lived far too well.

Oh my! This is narcissism gone mad. I am at risk of dribbling into my keyboard at the very thought of eating myself, properly roasted.

I won't apologise, for there is a sound logic to this self-love. Forget what the guardians of our health tell you. Ignore the pinched diet jeremiahs and the skinny cardio-thoracic surgeons; bypass surgery has advanced to such a point that it's practically routine these days. For what is the point of a life lived without fat? Fat is good. Fat is great. Fat is where the flavour is. Without fat a piece of meat is just so much stolid, worthy protein; a joyless celebration of earnest activity rather than the greater virtues of sloth and indulgence. Sure, fillet steak may be the most expensive cut of the cow, but it is also the dullest. It is Mogadon made flesh. Give me a thick-cut sirloin, with its heavy, buffed amber ribbon at its back every time.

Give me lamb breast, with its crisped, friable outer layers, which, when hot, melt on the tongue. Give me a duck with tits like Dolly Parton, its outside as sweet and caramelised and crunchy as a candied nut. Give me plump capons and geese, and sausages that leave a puddle of something shiny on the plate when you puncture them, just ready to be mopped up with the pad of one (fat) finger.

I would go off on one now about the whole pig thing – bacon rind and crackling, slices of black pudding dotted with granules of fat like diamonds in a mine – but I think you know about that already. Suffice to say that a pig without its fat is like Angelina Jolie without the looks: not worth bothering with.

There is to me no sadder sight than a plate of roasted meat from which its owner has systematically excised every trace of glistening fat, the unwanted bronzed skin piled up on the rim like the debris left at the side of a motorway after a nasty car crash. There is always a pinched expression that goes with this process, the look of someone who has the stench of something unspeakable in their nostrils. I want to shout "you idiot" and chuck my knife in, give those exquisite, slippery pieces the love they deserve.

Is fat always pretty? No, but then the best food isn't. Its virtues, like a proper layer of fat, go far deeper than mere aesthetics. Which, as it happens, is another reason why I think I'd make for good eating.

jay.rayner@observer.co.uk

Contributor

Jay Rayner

The GuardianTramp

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