Lard and the Lack of Logic

Please note – the blog post below reflects my own personal opinions, beliefs and experiences. It is not intended to offend, or to disrespect anyone else’s beliefs, opinions or practices.

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I am a Reform Jew. I was born into a Liberal Jewish family. In the UK, these are fairly similar, to the extent that they share a Rabbinical college, and whichever you are is usually determined by which type of Synagogue is closest. In London, it was a Liberal Shul, in South Wales where we live now, it’s a Reform Shul. Because I had a split family, London and South Wales, I actually had my Bat Mitzvah celebrated twice – once in a Liberal Shul and once in a Reform Shul.

This is only really relevant because we don’t keep Kosher. My family have never kept Kosher, and now, living in South Wales, married to a Pagan, I don’t feel any need to keep Kosher. I believe that the Kosher laws were very sensible in their day, ensuring that animals were treated with respect, and that foods that could easily spoil in hot weather were taboo. In this day and age, I feel it’s more important to eat free range or organic food.

I still have residual guilt about my non-Kosher status, plus a load of cultural influences cascading through the family from my grandparents and their grandparents – so that even though I’m quite happy to eat sausages and bacon, I don’t like roast pork or pork chops, and I would never have so much as considered using lard for cooking.

However, eating a truly Paleo diet is rather expensive, and slightly beyond our budget at the moment, so we’re having to make a few compromises. A lot of the recipes we’re following use coconut oil, which is ferociously expensive. Great for Paleo cakes and sweet (ish) treats, but not necessary for savoury dishes. So far we’ve used olive oil as a substitute where possible, but that doesn’t react well to high heat, so last week I bought some lard. Just a plain ordinary block of lard in a packet.

We’ve had quite a few fry ups, and I’m astonished to say they tasted great. We also had fried mushrooms – my current craving is for fried mushrooms, so I expect I’ll find a reason why I shouldn’t eat them fairly soon – and they were also lovely. I am rather surprised at the lack of, well, porky, bacony flavour. And even more surprised that I don’t have retributory feelings of nausea or a lightening bolt style poorly tummy.

And yet – I still don’t feel comfortable. There is no logic to this whatsoever. I will not stop eating bacon or pork sausages, ham, or salami. So in future, when we’re feeling flush I’ll go with coconut oil or possibly goose fat, and olive oil when times are tight. I’ll try to get some suet and experiment with that. But, as it turns out, lard is just one step too far.

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Decision Fatigue

It’s exactly what it says on the tin. And it really does exist! Apparently there’s a raft of scientific evidence that there’s only a fixed amount of energy everyone has to deal with decision making. This energy is also the kind of energy you use up when you have to exert self-control.

The Husband has told me about this. He’s reading a book called ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, and I’m planning to read it once he’s finished it, but he’s giving me little extracts and summaries as he goes. (Luckily for him, he has learned not to do this with fiction books and films:-)

As far as I can tell, there are various practical outcomes of this theory. For instance, Barack Obama only has two suits – or at least, two styles of suits, so that he only ever has to choose the light one or the dark one. He also never chooses what to eat, and every memo that crosses his desk is a multiple choice memo – yes, no, or let’s discuss. The rationale behind this is that he has to make the most important decisions in the world a lot of the time, so he can’t afford to let the trivial decisions take up any of his decision making energy.

Another outcome of this is that if you spend a lot of energy exerting self-control, so for instance, not shouting at the children (well, not unless it’s necessary!), not telling your colleagues at work that they are complete numpties, not swearing at the traffic warden, your ability to exert self-control in other areas will be severely affected – that is, you will not be able to stop yourself from eating that piece of chocolate cake, or drinking another glass of wine.

Now I’m not in charge of a large country. Or a small country. Or my family, or my home apparently. But because we have children, The Husband and I are making many many decisions, all of the time. Decisions which could affect not just our futures, but our children’s futures. What schools they go to. How exactly to explain the subtleties of our moral code and spiritual stance to a six year old. How to discipline the children without damaging their self-esteem. Whether we really are bad parents for feeding them chicken nuggets and fish fingers on alternate nights all week instead of home-made lentil stew with home grown salad – that kind of thing. I’m sure being President of the USA is harder, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.

So all of this makes perfect sense to me. That’s why every parent in the world reaches for their vice of choice after a long hard day parenting – in my case, chocolate, often wine, in The Husband’s case, 2.8% stubbies. That’s why diets rarely work, especially if you’re constantly confronted with temptation. If you use up all your energy denying yourself the goodies in the cupboard, you’ll run out of energy before the goodies run out. (By they way, does anyone else have an official Goodies Cupboard in their house??) So if you feel you need to lose a bit of weight, make the children suffer as well by removing all the diet-breaking temptations from your house. A few months without Mars Bars and fizzy orange won’t do them any harm! Although it might do your ears some harm…

It also explains why parents are always tired. Especially parents of ‘spirited’ children. Especially parents with more than one ‘spirited’ child. Especially parents with three spirited children.

After thinking about these theories for some time, I have decided on a few coping tactics. Firstly, I will be insisting that in future, I will only ever have to answer questions with ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘ask your Dad’. I will never again choose what to have for dinner. That’s The Husband’s job, and he does it extremely well. From now on I will have a ‘work’ look (black suit, coloured shirt) and a ‘casual’ look (jeans, tshirt), and enough clothes to last me a week at work and a weekend – and that’s it. I will use up my perfumes sequentially so I never have to choose which perfume to wear. I have one necklace, one pair of earrings and my wedding ring, so I’ll never have to choose what jewellery to wear. Already I can feel my life becoming more relaxing…

So remember, if you are a parent, and you’re always exhausted/unable to stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan/reaching for the wine the second the children are in bed, give yourself a break. It’s actually because you’re doing the right thing by your children all day long.