(Spoiler alert: You may catch a whiff of something you’re getting for Christmas.)
I don’t know why I think so much of soap: it’s just a means to an end. But I guess “the medium is the message.” How else to explain the amount of time I spend browsing the fancy paper-wrapped bars on the shelves at Marshalls?
I tried making some of my own for our church bazaar and for holiday gifts. I’d seen it done on a talk show, and if a nationally-known broadcaster can be successful at this, why can’t I? But I had missed the recipe so looked it up online. Right there — a step by step process for milling soap without the caustic chemicals. All you do is find some nice old-fashioned white, Castile (not to be confused with White Castle) soap, grate it, add water, melt in the double boiler, add color and fragrant oils, and pour into molds. Voila!
I won’t show you the mistakes. But remember those dried apple ornaments that shriveled up to look like old people? That would be an accurate description of my first batches. Then, like all good consumers, I visited a pre-holiday craft show in a nearby town. I talked to a soap-seller, whose products were beautiful, though his were the start-from-nothing and using lye kind. He suggested something called “Melt and Pour.”
In less than a day “Melt and Pour” was on its way from Amazon, and on the inside of a week I’d used this wonderful stuff. With goat’s milk, even! It makes the best soap and doesn’t dry up after it cools. Now the fun part is finding more molds to use. Square margarine tubs and round frosting containers have worked as well as ones made of silicone; some fun ice cube trays I’ve had in the back of the cupboard turn out little heart-shaped bubblies.
It’s not even close to the soap my grandmother made outdoors in a kettle, wearing a mask to protect her from the fumes. That was, along with the butchering, one of the necessities of life back then. I am fortunate enough to buy the soap I need and like, and also to be able to treat it as a craft. Now laundry detergent — that’s a different story.