Nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents and home­made soap

The Catoosa County News - - EDITORIALS & OPINION -

What’s nat­u­ral? I fin­ished a can of or­ange soda be­fore look­ing at the can, which is some­thing like buy­ing a mail-or­der bride.

I found noth­ing ob­jec­tion­able about the soda but started won­der­ing what the nat­u­ral in “nat­u­ral fla­vor­ings” meant.

I found no dis­cov­er­able def­i­ni­tion for “nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents” un­less you’ll ac­cept “in­gre­di­ents that come di­rectly from an­i­mal or plant sources as op­posed to those pro­duced syn­thet­i­cally.”

The FDA web­site in­cludes a long state­ment about a long-stand­ing pol­icy but says about as much what nat­u­ral is not as is, and again it speaks of a pol­icy rather than a cod­i­fied def­i­ni­tion.

While plun­der­ing a gift shop I spied a bar of soap that claimed “all nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents.”

My fam­ily used home­made lye soap for wash­ing laun­dry, bod­ies and floors.

Soap was made about once a year af­ter the weather cooled.

Lye soap was made of an­i­mal fat and lye wa­ter from hard­wood ashes.

Ashes and rain wa­ter were col­lected in bar­rels. Rain wa­ter was used be­cause it was free of con­tam­i­nates.

The ashes were placed in a trough sim­i­lar to a feed trough lined with flour sacks. The trough was placed on top of a leach­ing bar­rel con­tain­ing sand and peb­bles with holes in the bar­rel’s bot­tom.

When the wa­ter dripped through the ashes, po­tash (lye) leached into it, turn­ing it gray. The lye wa­ter passed through river sand as a fil­ter and was col­lected in a bar­rel.

When a cow was butchered in the fall, in­ner fat was col­lected and placed in a cast-iron wash pot over a low fire. The fat melted, small pieces of meat (crack­lings) were re­moved and the tal­low was poured off.

The two in­gre­di­ents were com­bined over heat to make some­thing about the con­sis­tency of corn meal mush. The com­bined in­gre­di­ents were poured into wooden molds about six inches long and about half that thick to cool.

The “bricks” of soap were turned out of the molds, al­lowed to dry, wrapped in news­pa­pers and kept in a dry place.

For wash­ing laun­dry and dishes, bits of soap were shaved off the bricks into hot wa­ter.

It wasn’t some­thing you’d find in a gift shop but purely util­i­tar­ian.

These bricks of soap smelled like what they were made from. There was no aroma of per­fume, flow­ers or eu­ca­lyp­tus.

For that you needed the mailorder bride.

Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” col­umns for sev­eral small news­pa­pers. He has many con­nec­tions to Walker County, in­clud­ing his grand­fa­ther, for­mer su­per­in­ten­dent Way­mond Mor­gan. He can be reached at joen­[email protected]­

Joe Phillips

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