Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Family History: Making "Soap"

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," goes the saying.  Or in my case, a little knowledge is a drain-clogging thing.

I don't remember learning to read; as a child, I always had my nose in a book.  My grandma gave me the Little House series of books when I was about 7, and I eagerly read each book.  I loved the gentle lessons I learned about self-sufficiency as I read about preserving the harvest, making Christmas gifts, and even butchering hogs.  Somewhere amongst the pages of those books, I also learned how to make soap. 

Have you ever read a "How to Cook a Turkey" article in the newspaper on Thanksgiving?  Each year, the local schoolchildren submit their recipes, and each year I'm sure the newspaper's legal department lobbies for a disclaimer, or at least a warning to follow the recipes at your own risk.  A typical recipe would recommend:  "CooK the turkee in the ovn for 5 mntes at 200 dgries."

I think those directions are more detailed than the soap-making knowledge I acquired from the Little House series.  My mom probably has a different perspective on the incident, but this is how I remember it:

Just as the tub finished filling for my little sister's and my bath, the phone rang.  While my mom was distracted, I got the brilliant idea to use homemade soap.  I knew that a key ingredient was animal fat.  Fortunately, my mom had cooked some ground beef for dinner, and the cooled, drained grease was sitting in a measuring cup on the counter.  Whatever other ingredients were involved couldn't be very important; besides, I didn't think we had lye, and I seemed to remember some element of danger involved with lye.  Away to the bathroom I went, with the hamburger grease and my little sister in tow.  The "soap" definitely had a different feel to it than our regular Ivory, and it didn't wash off very easily, but I was doing things the old-fashioned way, and felt pretty proud of myself.  It wasn't long before my mom was off the phone and came in to check on us.  My mom handled the situation better than I would have in her position.  I remember she was surprised, and very confused about what I was doing--I guess she hadn't read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books recently.  I don't remember her exact words--they were patient and calm--but I understood that I was not to make soap anymore. 

Now, when I throw out the drained grease from cooking, I think of my lone attempt at soap-making.  And I wonder if my soap clogged our drain.  If it did, Mom didn't mention it.

Have you made "soap"?
Thanks for a patient mom, and thanks to Laura Ingalls Wilder, who introduced me to the pioneer lifestyle.


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4 comments:

  1. What a great memory!

    My mother made lye soap, but I never tried to emulate her actions.

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  2. Fantastic story! I can just picture a your little girl self slathering that grease all over your arms with a proud grin on your face. You were "granola green" before it was cool to be so!
    I so enjoyed those books. And when the TV series began, I was addicted from the get-go.

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  3. Oh gosh Kristi, I can just imagine the mess!!! LOL Yes, I have tried making soap and was unsuccessful and then had success...but I didn't use hamburger grease! LOL

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  4. I don't make soap, but thankfully, a good friend does. She even makes pet bars and researched all of her ingredients for my allergy-mess basset.

    However, your post reminded me of my grandmother's soap-making... she saved those slivers I toss and would melt them into a variegated bar... I was never allowed to help. Hem; I think I know why now!

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!