I've always thought that Mexican restaurants really had the right idea. For the most part, their dishes are created from the same few ingredients. Corn and wheat tortillas, oil, meat, rice, beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, and lettuce allow a patron to order hard tacos, soft tacos, tostadas, burritos, or chimichangas. Five menu items, 11 ingredients to have prepared. Not bad. From there, minor additions make whole new meals - add one ingredient (enchilada sauce) and enchiladas get added to the menu.
As I pondered this more, I realized that most traditional cuisines work on this principal. It makes sense, there are only so many things a person or village can produce in any given climate.
All of this came to mind today as I went down to the usual cupboard and pulled out the borax, washing soda, and soap to make laundry detergent. It's the same cupboard where I keep the white vinegar, citric acid, and pickling salt. Throw in baking soda from the kitchen I realized that I've got my own household needs "traditional ingredients" list.
Dishwasher detergent - citric acid, borax, washing soda, salt
Laundry powder - borax, washing soda, soap
Baking soda for any abrasive scrubbing (think Comet)
Vinegar for grease removal (I've also heard it works great on windows - but I don't do windows ;p) and yucky laundry (immediately removes any mildew)
Citric acid baths prevent oxidation as I prepare fruit for canning
Borax mixed with powdered sugar is great ant bait
Salt, baking soda, and vinegar for cooking and preserving
Eight uses on the "menu", not bad for seven ingredients!
Now I've just got to get soapmaking under my belt to I can just keep lye in the stash and use all that rendered fat from stock. (No, I don't believe I'll ever feel the need to try to make my own lye from wood ash - yuck.)
It really is amazing how many times I look up some household trick for this or that little problem and it comes down to some combination of those few ingredients. Presto! It's a taco! No, it's a burrito!
It's funny how the more you understand how things work it allows you to simplify and need fewer and fewer types of things. Clothing follows the same progression. When you get right down to it, with the right tools and skills, it would not be tricky to reduce your materials down to fabric, yarn, and some thread. (Wood and leather if you wanted to include shoes.) If you want to be one of those really obnoxious people with WAY too much time, I guess you'd even just need a flock of sheep and a field of cotton. :)
Somehow, the versatility of those substances soothes me. It gives reinforcement that the world works in understandable, predictable ways. My more practical side is also grateful that, despite what advertisers say, I don't need laundry soap, dish detergent, floor cleaner, stove cleaner, counter cleaner, sink and tub cleaner, window cleaner, and so on. Think about how much space grocery stores would save. Think of how much money corporations would lose. It's a very silly thought.
Clearly, the first outside laundry drying of the year has gone to my head! (Yes, it's late. It's been a really rainy spring.)
Oh, count me in on the soap-making extravaganza, but beware...I could easily fall into the desire to make lye from scratch! -Cam
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