Since the conquerors introduced Spanish livestock, this has been the favorite Mexican cooking fat. It’s the only thing that is right for frying most of the spice mixtures like moles and pepianes, flavoring refried beans, and making tamales. Until recently, vegetable oils and olive oil were preferred only for a few uses. Now they are becoming more available. For me the smell of good lard recalls the excitement of butchering followed by marathon cooking sessions on our ranch when I was a child. You can, of course, substitute any other oil or shortening when lard is called for, but switching cooking fats is like changing the lighting for a photograph and expecting it to look the same. Each kind of fat holds and melds all other flavors in its own way. When I do not sauté in lard, corn oil is my own preference.