• The Yardstick of Civilizations

    by  • March 9, 2012 • Everything Else • 2 Comments

    (click the images for more info)

    This is Soap Guy. He makes soap. He doesn’t just make soap, he makes political soap. Soap so good it makes you question capitalism. Let me explain.

    Alex Fradera gave me a bar of soap he’d made with his own two hands, after going to Soap School, and it was amazing. It was, to me, like the experience people have when they describe organic mangos fresh off the tree at the peak of ripeness. The soap was right. After you washed with it, hair and skin felt both clean and smooth and supple, not dried in the least. It was a life-changing bar of soap!

    I said Alex, this soap… why?

    And the answer is fascinating. Commercial soap – even from places like Lush – is not “whole soap.” At one point in the process they skim off the all-important moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and use them in the cosmetics trade at huge markups, leaving your skin dry and your wallet empty as you buy additional products from their supply chain. It’s like peeling all the good stuff out of food, and selling you empty corn syrup and vitamin pills. Whole soap, real soap, is like organic food for the skin. It’s an amazing thing, and you can tangibly feel the difference immediately.

    Soap Guy’s name is Daniel Knight. He’s been doing this for years. He’s got personal friends down his supply chain, goes to Africa to buy shea butter and essential oils from people he knows personally. He makes the stuff himself, in his kitchen, and his sister is an industrial chemist. They really know what they’re doing, and they make great soap. You can go and visit them in Camden Market – they’re on the upstairs floor of Camden Lock, the big building by the water, it’s easy to find! The stall is inside on the gallery level, talk to Daniel, smell some soap and buy it.

    You don’t hear me talk about things this way very often. But you really need to try this soap, and you need to understand just how much value is being taken out of our lives by money-grubbling industrial efficiency. To me, real soap is kind of a symbol of living right, in much the same way that organic food is for many people.

    The difference is, it’s three quid a bar.

    Treat yourself. Get down to Camden Market, and meet Daniel, who makes real soap.

    (I am not affiliated with http://read-the-label.co.uk in any way, I just think they make great soap.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    2 Responses to The Yardstick of Civilizations

    1. March 28, 2012 at 2:23 am

      I bet that the “three quid per bar” soap lasts a lot longer than the cheaper soap found in your supermarkets. I am not particularly a high maintenance guy, but ever since starting the Oklahoma Food Coop, I have become a major fan of artisinal soaps and I keep several on hand. Cranberry Fig. Patchouli. Sage. A soap for every mood, lol. Also shampoo bars and I even have a shampoo bar for the dogs. Yes they cost more than the cheap soaps in the supermarket, but the cheap soaps disappear so quickly I think I am actually saving money when I pay four dollars US for a bar of artisanal soap. When I go out of town, I take my soap with me lest I be stuck with some awful soap at a guest’s lodging or hotel. This is the kind of local production we need to encourage all over the world. I’d send three pounds for a bar except that I don’t happen to have any English pounds laying around and I already have lots of artisan soap made in Oklahoma. But if I ever make it to London, I will certainly stop by and give the guy’s soap a try. Pax!

    2. October 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      That’s really interesting. My daughter had a soap making kit and I felt that the soaps from that lasted longer and felt nicer. I will look out for more handmade soap to try to truly test your theory 🙂

      On the commecial cost cutting issue, have you ever bought a pack of chicken thighs from the supermarket? For years they have been cutting the chicken so that you receive a whole extra role of chicken skin to bulk up the weight – one of the reasons why I try to avoid buying them. However I bought some recently and noticed that the thigh bones have all been cut. So you think that you are buying a whole chicken thigh, but you actually get half a chicken thigh bulked up with excess skin. It is outrageous. I guess i should be grateful it wasn’t horse or rat meat! Thank goodness that small local shops seem to be on the increase again.

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