I was recently invited to write a guest post for Wishpot's Indie Blog. It was a nice excuse to mention my grandmother who planted the soapmaking seed in me a very long time ago. I didn't elaborate too much at Wishpot because I wanted to focus on current soapmakers, but since this is MY blog, I can tell you a little more.
Florence McNulty was my maternal grandmother. She was a very loving and bubbly woman who lived in Yonkers, New York, where I was born. Since my family moved to San Diego and I have 3 siblings, we didn't get to visit my grandparents often, but the memories I have are very vivid and special.
One thing that made a lasting impression on me was her handmade soap. In the washroom there were creamy handcut bars for hands and laundry, and I remember seeing her take a metal pan of curing soap down from the attic to show me. Grandma made it from fat collected during cooking. She kept a metal coffee can to save any leftover grease from cooking pork chops (my grandpa's favorite dinner), bacon, etc. Whenever the can filled up she would make a batch of soap.
When I was in college I decided to ask her about the process. We wrote letters to eachother and she sent me her recipe plus a brochure from Red Devil called "Making Soap with Lye." You can see in grandma's recipe that it's not very specific and obviously for someone who's done it before. I was a little scared to try it myself. Then when I looked through the brochure the many skulls and crossbones and "Poison!" warnings further intimidated me. The recipe for Fish Oil Soap sounded pretty gross, too, so I carefully put everything back in the envelope and stored it for safe keeping. So much for that! LOL!
Eventually, 10 years later, I did try making soap from scratch. I had my husband (a science guy) handy to be my safety manager and we made a nice batch of basic soap! But it didn't have the rustic charm of my grandma's.
Many thanks to the years of competitive ball room dancing she and my grandpa enjoyed, she lived a long and healthy life into her mid 90's. Wherever you are, thanks for your inspiration, grandma!