Praise the Lard
It was an Eisenhower kitchen, complete with the old indestructible
black cast iron skillet and all that entails. You needed lard to keep
the food from sticking. You needed flour because everything in sight
got dipped in egg wash and floured before frying. You had to store the
lard and flour someplace. That someplace was usually under the kitchen
sink in two separate aluminium canisters, one labelled lard and one
You can probably see where this one is going.
I was barely ambulatory at the time. That's a fancy way of saying I was
a crawler, a rug rat we call them nowadays, though mom and dad couldn't
afford a rug back then. It was tough on my knees those first couple of
years. We didn't have indoor plumbing either, but that's another
Let's get back to that lard and flour waiting so patiently for us under
I knew it was there. I knew what it looked liked. I was fascinated,
especially with the flour, at how precisely you could scoop out a cup
of flour and leave a little scoop-hole crater in the canister, and then
you could bounce the canister so the flour settled down, leaving a
little flour cloud from the bouncing, and then you could sweep a
spatula across the top of the flour scoop to flatten the flour out so
it wouldn't overflow, just like they do with beer foam in Amsterdam, I
discovered much later.
Lard is a very different matter. You just scoop it out and plop it in
the skillet and smear it around so the food won't stick. Lard is a very
crude medium compared to flour, as I recall.
I watched very carefully every time mom got into the lard or the flour.
I volunteered to help, but she always turned me down. I couldn't
One day, it's always one day isn't it, I crawled over to the sink and
opened the doors to the storage area under the sink, just to explore
the fascinating world of lard and flour, you understand. I wanted to be
able to help out my mom when the time came. At least that was my story,
and I'm sticking to it to this day.
Mom was nowhere in sight.
I got the top off the shiny aluminium canister of lard, plunged all ten
fingers in as far as they would go, scooped some of it out, and looked
at my hands admiring the result like a manicurist.
Then I wanted to do the same for the flour, but my hands were coated
with lard. I knew mom would be upset if I got lard on my clean clothes,
so I wiped my hands in my hair.
I still like that logic.
I didn't get it all off my hands, but it was an improvement.
There's the flour canister. I got the top off (no small trick with
lardy hands) and started making little castles in the flour, just like
in the sandbox outside. Flour is a much more delicate medium than lard.
It takes a steady hand to make anything of lasting value in dry
Oh boy. This is fun.
Being of an artistic nature, I then crawled to the wall and started
finger painting with flour and lard.
At this point, Mom came back.
She grabbed me under the arms and plopped me into my highchair.
Oh my god, what a mess you are, she said, laughing hysterically.
I don't remember much else. I'm sure she cleaned me up, and the wall,
and anything else that needed it.
I do remember dad coming home from work and laughing hysterically at
I laughed too, but I wasn't exactly sure why. It was just fun to laugh
with mom and dad.
I wish I had a photograph of me with the lard and flour in my hair,
finger painting the kitchen wall. My CV could use a little help these
days. Still, I do have a mental picture of it, and a very clear one at
that, mind you.
I wish I could say something clever about all this, like how I learned
about forgiveness that day, but that's not how it was. I was just a
little kid growing up and doing little kid things like all little kids
I do remember one important thing, though. I was not punished. No one
screamed at me. No one hit me. They made it clear that I better not do
it again, but other than that, I was welcomed back into the family with
Maybe that's enough for one day.