Friday, October 7, 2011

Pork Lard is Health Food - Neely's

[NOTE: This restaurant is now closed]

I have a theory that several decades ago the residents of the working-class Fox Meadows neighborhood got together and made an elaborate sacrifice to the gods of barbecue in order to insure that they would always enjoy an abundance of excellent smoked pork. I came up with this theory today while I was eating at the Neely’s Bar-B-Que on Mt. Moriah, which is located about half a block from the Leonard’s on Fox Plaza that I sampled last week.

The pulled pork at Neely’s, which has become famous thanks to the Down Home With the Neely’s TV show on Food Network, didn’t have as much smokey flavor as Leonard’s. But it was exquisitely tender. And while it was fatty, the fat was the pleasant melt-in-your-mouth variety. The beans were good and spicy and the slaw was extremely good with plenty of mustard. I always prefer mustard in slaw and potato salad to variations that pile on the store-bought mayonnaise. Store-bought mayo is usually lousy with soybean oil -- a chemically extracted industrial product that acts as an inflammation-inducing toxin in the body, just like the “vegetable” oils made from corn, cottonseed and canola.

These oils are heavily pushed by the USDA, the government agency charged with convincing Americans to consume large quantities of the subsidized crops like corn, wheat and soy that are the main drivers behind our rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The USDA also tells us to avoid the natural fats, like the juicy delicious pork fat on my barbecue plate, that have nourished humans for hundreds of thousands of years. We are told saturated fat is evil and clogs your arteries because it is solid at room temperature. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that all my readers are mammals. This means that the day your arteries are room temperature you are no longer concerned with deciding what to have for lunch. Place a stick of butter outside in the sun the next time we have a 98 degree Memphis day to see how solid it will be in your arteries.

Of course, even pork lard isn’t all saturated fat. As science writer Gary Taubes points out in his excellent book Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it, according to the USDA’s own National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 47 percent of the fat in pork lard is the monounsaturated variety loved by nutritionists because it raises “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol. Of that monounsaturated fat, 90 percent is the same oleic acid found in nutritionally beloved olive oil. Of the roughly 40 percent of the fat that is saturated, a third is steric acid that actually raises “good” HDL cholesterol with no affect on the “bad” LDL. The other 12 percent of the total fat is polyunsatured fat that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol with no affect on “good" HDL. So 70 percent of the fat in pork lard is actually better for your cholesterol that any fat-free food. The other 30 percent raises both “good” and “Bad” cholesterol together. So when I skip the bread, soda and fries at barbecue joints in favor of more pork I am reducing my risk of a heart attack.

Skipping the bread, soda and fires also makes sure that your body burns the fat you eat instead of storing it as Tom Naughton explains in these clips from his myth-shattering documentary Fat Head that is available for streaming on Netflix:

Neely's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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