Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mad Science Begins!

Back when I first started dabbling around with soapmaking (in an effort to help my struggling pocketbook and not continue to spend the small inheritance it seemed like I was indulging in to fix my fragrant habit), I learned about the value of a journal.  For the grand total of - I think something like $36 for three Saturday morning sessions - I enrolled in a soapmaking class at the Boston Center for Adult Education.  The woman who taught it was incredible - I still have the handouts she gave us from when I took the class.  Among other valuable skills I learned there - you know, the usual playing with hazardous bases like lye, saponification, and the importance of goggles - we also spent a while talking about journaling and Why It Is Important.

Journaling is a great way to track your progress, and to record both your successes and failures.  When you're new to chemistry, it's important to develop a solid understanding both of the fundamentals, and also why sometimes it seems like Things Go to Complete Hell for No Reason.  (Spoiler - there usually is a reason if you can go back and trace what you did.)  It also helps you remember if something worked out unexpectedly cool!

More importantly, as you begin to stretch your alchemical wings, a journal helps you really explore new territory - with both good and bad outcomes, like any true Mad Science, of course.  There are hundreds of variables you can change, add, tweak, and adjust when you get into "modern alchemy" (in my personal case atm, this means brewing and soapmaking, both of which involve actual chemical changes, as opposed to cooking, which does not).  In soapmaking, you can vary everything from your base "fats" or oils, to your additives, to your fragrances, and also you can adjust the ratios and proportions of everything.  In meadmaking, the same is mostly true but with different base ingredients - even just working with honey, there are dozens of varietals of honey you can use, each with its own characteristics and flavor profiles.  There are different yeasts (just like in winemaking), each of which creates its own ratio of fruit, dryness or sweetness, fermentation speed, and so forth.  Plus like soapmaking, there are hundreds of additives - hops, malts, fruits, spices, even tea and coffee can be added.

With so many possibilities, what's a Mad Scientist to do?

Clearly, in the Modern Era, there's only one answer.

Start a blog.