Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wonderful, Appalling, Thrilling By Turns

Review: Lee's Priceless Recipes, compiled by N.T. Oliver

Need to clean a grease ring off the collar of your black suit coat, and wash the wood paneling in the den? The same recipe (a mix of castille soap, ether and glycerin) serves both purposes. Never mind where you can buy ether nowadays (or what licenses and equipment you need to legally use it), it's fun to read about!

Want "fictitious gold" suitable for fooling a fiancée? The recipe found in these pages will supposely resist detection by "the action of nitric acid, unless furiously boiling". Ladies, fair warning: turn up the heat under your HNO3!

Or the economics of making penny-popcorn candy, complete with staffing and wages for "boys" to cook the popcorn and syrup, and assemble and cut the candy pieces. Of course, the economics of producing both candy and faux gold are from the 1890's, but how delightful to contemplate!

Less delightful: the prospect of clipping and brushing one's eyelashes with sulphate of quinine to make them grow, or treating your hair with gallic acid, ammonia and silver nitrate to darken it. 

Even less so: grinding lead salts (white lead) to mix with linseed oil and turpentine to make a "pure white paint", or applying creosote directly to the skin, although masked with peppermint oil, to ward off mosquitos. Ugh! 

Fortunately, much better things are to be found in this compilation. My book now falls open to page 65: Rockets.