Wow! Have not been on CC since yesterday and just read all the way through this thread. As usual, opinions vary.
I, too, was raised in California. My mom always had a bacon grease dish on the stove with a pair of salt and pepper shakers to match. Fried many a skillet of potatoes in that grease. She cooked with lard and maybe it was because we were poor. Guess I was oblivious to that fact.
Moved to Missouri when I was 16 and, by damn, that grease dish and shakers still sat on the stove.
If I had a dollar for every pound of lard I had rendered in my life, I could take a nice vacation. I owned a restaurant for 13 years. We bought sows from the Pork Plantation and made whole hog sausage that we served every day along with the biscuits and gravy. From those hogs, I rendered the lard that made all our pie crusts. Didn't use it for anything else, though.
For those who remember lard leaving a funny taste, I don't think the commercial lard is like that nor is home rendered lard if it is handled correctly. It must me rendered over a slow fire and strained carefully. My mom sometimes left it sit out and it would get that rancid taste.
Indydebi, I always make my sausage gravy similar to how you do but have never used cornstarch (only flour) and don't heat my milk before adding it unless I'm in a hurry. Why do you use cornstarch? Another thing, Debi, any damn time you want to give me an autobiography, I'd be glad to hear it. Theresa's comments were totally out of line.
As for lard in icing. I would think it would not hold up to heat very well. As far as mixing it with butter and shortening, I don't know what the point would be. It isn't cheaper. Someone needs to let us know how it does.
Guess that was part of my autobiography.