We’ve eaten them for thousands of years; some are essential for our bodies. Fats hold onto flavours in a way that water doesn’t. We like the experience of eating them, but they have had a bad press in recent years.

What do we know about fats?

Have you ever watched butter melting on your toast, or in a pan, slowly and tantalisingly? If it was all one type of fat, it would go liquid much more rapidly, apparently. I could not find listed the fats in butter (there are medium and short-chain fatty acids) but I did find those for olive oil and lard, with approximate percentages.

Olive oil contains around 71% oleic acid, and interestingly, lard has about 44% of the same fat. (As natural products vary slightly, the percentages vary a little between samples.) Both have around 10% linoleic acid, which is an omega six polyunsaturate. Lard has about 26% palmitic acid, around one percent more than human milk has.

Does it make sense to swear never to eat lard and stick to olive oil? I only use lard occasionally in pastry (pie dough), and I don’t like it that much. I bought some beef dripping recently, to use for occasional hot frying, because it has a high smoke-point. From what I’ve read, it seems that when you start to see a faint blue smoke rising off the fat, the heat is damaging and changing it. I never fry in sunflower oil any more because of this, and only use olive oil for low-temperature slow cooking of onions and other vegetables.

For me, an  important area is the polyunsaturates, now often known as the omega-3 and omega-6 fats.