Just showing off this fall's favorite soap, Falling Leaves

Making a Link to The Past

It is doubtful that your grandmother ever made soap. Same for your great grandmother, or even her mother. It’s been generations since most Americans stockpiled their wood ash and filtered it through hay to get a lye/water mixture, combined it with rendered lard or other kitchen grease, then spent approximately 4 hours hand-stirring it…only to maybe get a semi-firm batch of soap. Why the maybe? The results were inconsistent because the average person did not have a foolproof method of determining whether the lye water was strong enough to saponify or chemically react with the kitchen fats. Scientists have long since determined a method to synthetically manufacture lye which does deliver consistent results, ensuring that the ONLY reason soap will fail is due to “operator” error.  Why would anyone want to make their own soap, though? If our distant ancestors did it out of necessity, why would we bother when it is so readily available – and cheaply- at the store. It isn’t, in my opinion, because they are hungry to get cleaner than store-bought soap can get them.  I am of the belief that since most Americans have so little connection to the traditional ways of our ancestors: raising farm animals like chickens, cows, or pigs; growing wheat for making bread; or even knowing what crop is growing in what season, they are looking to rekindle that connection to nature, their ancestors, anything tangible. If a person spends their days in a cubicle, completely removed from the natural world – and often just entering data or scheduling or producing work that is not an object, they don’t get that feeling of having created anything.  Soap making has experienced a huge resurgence in the last 10 years because it does not require a large investment of time or money, does not involve tending (as animals and gardens do), and the results are rather immediate and gratifying. I do not believe that this is exclusive to body care products, though. Cider-making, sewing (and related crafting), baking, brewing beer, making cheese, and other traditional arts are also part of this revolution, too. I have the chance to share my little bit of knowledge at various Kent District Libraries this winter with other eager “soapers”. Check out the attached link of the class’ promotion.



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