The Great Grease Bucket: Something from Nothing


"Something from Nothing" is what a frugal housewife got when she saves drippings from cooked beef, pork and fowl. "Something from Nothing" is what the Vegetable Oil Companies got when they convinced everyone that the grease bucket was old-fashioned and dangerous. It's amazing how something frugal can be transformed into something old-fashioned, dangerous and something only poor people do. Using class bigotry is an effective marketing technique. It worked on my parents who came from the farm and were a bit insecure about that. Don't be fooled.

When I started eating traditional nourishing foods, the biggest change in my life was reintroducing fat from an animal source into my diet.

As a child, I remember the grease bucket that sat beside the kitchen stove and was used anytime frying was required. It was continually refilled with grease from bacon, sausage and drippings from roasted meat. We never used vegetable oils and I remember making delicious biscuits from the grease.

The grease bucket disappeared from my family’s kitchen when I was about eight years old. The grease was thrown into the garbage and we started buying vegetable oils and margarine. At the time, the Canadian government recommended limiting saturated fat because it caused heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately, the outcome of these recommendations over the last 30 years has not been a reduction in heart disease and cancer.

In my search to improve my health, I found there was great controversy about saturated fat even causing heart disease and cancer. Of course, I couldn’t believe that such a basic nutritional fact could be wrong. It took months before I could seriously consider that my dogmatic beliefs about saturated fat might be wrong.

The arguments are complex. It appears the basic error was traditional saturated fats became the villain in a complex misinterpretation of modern “new fangled” fats and industrial vegetable oils.

There is some great writing on this topic, and I believe it is best to go to the source of information and make your own informed choice. If you are Confused About Fats, the Weston A. Price Foundation has some excellent essays.

Dr. Mary Enig, a renowned lipid specialist, wrote a book called Know Your Fats which is a great primer for understanding fats. Thirty years ago, she was one of the first scientists to raise the alarm about trans fatty acids and advocated for labeling. Know Your Fats is available in the Kamloops Public Library.

Update August 4, 2009: I have had a number of people ask me about the title of this post. I guess it was my attempt at a pun. “Something from Nothing” is what a frugal housewife would get when she went to the trouble to save drippings from roasted meats, sausages and bacon. “Something from Nothing” is what the Vegetable Oil Companies created when they convinced everyone that the grease bucket was unhealthy and would cause disease or possibly death.


This is schmaltz or chicken fat from our pastured chickens. Note the rich yellow color. This fat color is produced from a life on pasture eating a variety of herbs, forbs, grasses and insects.