Natural ingredients and homemade soap
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]mail.com.