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Weighing in on fat

(article, Carrie Floyd)

All this talk on the site lately about fat — oils, cream, butter, lard — has me thinking about my own. No, not my BMI, but the fats I most often cook with and serve. 

Truth be told, olive oil and butter have equal footing in my house. I also frequently reach for canola oil, on occasion I render bacon fat for cooking, and a few times a year I unearth (trans-fat free) shortening from the back of the fridge when making pie crust. 

When it comes to baking, I gravitate toward recipes with butter because I like the taste. But my all-time favorite cake calls for vegetable oil and low-fat buttermilk. 

Here on Culinate, we've presented (in an article on olive oil and columns by Helen and Matthew, not once but twice) a range of fats, not as an endorsement of any one kind, but to expose a variety of what's available to the home cook. 

[%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="Topping for toast." credit="Photo © Culinate"]

Our own take, at the risk of sounding dull, is moderation. We can't ignore fat, especially with the prevalence of the word "obesity" in the current media. But as individuals, we get to decide the place it takes in our daily diet. For each person, that ratio is different, depending on his or her genetic profile, cholesterol levels, comfortable body weight, and personal taste. 

It seems to me there are two camps in the great food debate: foodies and health nuts. Foodies value taste over nutrition, while health nuts sacrifice flavor for nutrition. And all the rest of us wander around the middle ground, choosing brown rice one day and fried rice the next. 

Knowing more about what’s available makes for better food choices. Not better as endorsed by one camp or the other, but better because we've taken the time to weigh health-and-taste issues to come up with what’s best for ourselves.

Years ago I read about Better Butter in Laurel's Kitchen, a cook/nutrition book first published in the late 1970s. What I like about the recipe is that it combines butter with oil for a spread that tastes good and, for everyday usage, is healthier than pure butter. 

My kids like it on bread and toast, as well as potatoes and rice. In fact, they prefer it over butter: it spreads easily, and it's what they know. 

Here's the recipe, adapted from the book:

1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup soft, unsalted butter
1/2 cup soft, salted butter

Blend until smooth. Pour into a container, and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

p(bio). Carrie Floyd is the Culinate food editor.

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