Suffice to say that I have a greater understanding of the scent of a medieval household after my first experience rendering suet.
I’ve been reading The Great Mortality by John Kelly, a riveting account of the black plague and how it wound its way through Europe in the 14th century. Needless to say a key ingredient in its spread was the incredible filth of households in this period. People bathed rarely and garbage (think dead animals, toilet offerings, rotten food) was strewn about the streets. They also used lard or tallow in making candles. According to Kelly, lard wasn’t a preferred source of fuel because of the smell.
So let me get this straight. People who were surrounded by rotting flesh and human excrement complained about the smell of burning lard. How could this be?