Monday, August 11, 2014

The Lard That Binds... (Or My First 18th c. Pomatum)

As you saw in my previous post Mrs. Fox dressed my hair Sunday last and we tested out my "new" pomatum and powder. It worked pretty well, all things considered, and I'll be making up a new batch this week as I seem to have left my large tin in my friend's cooler Sunday evening. Whoops!

The back of my dressed hair
I was introduced to the art of big hair at last spring's Burnley and Trowbridge workshop and since that point I've been fascinated with wanting to improve my 18th century hair. I've been scouring all available resources for primary documents and thankfully the internet is full of them, some can still  be purchased online, and I may be able to find more once I have access to my library at work.

But here's the skinny on my foray into the fat underbelly of pomatum. (Okay- I confess that whole sentence was pretty awful, but I just couldn't help myself...)

First things first, I needed to pick a receipt from all of those sources I had been browsing. There were tons of options. Pomatum was so common and scents could be chosen by the maker based on any number of sweet flowers (lavender, orange blossom, whatever you wanted really). I knew that I already have a particular fondness for clove and citrus, so I used oil of clove and lemon for my pomatum. I'd like to try scenting the pomatum in the 18th c. manner with flowers sometime, I'm just not there yet.

Not having every single ingredient for any one pomatum receipt- I improvised. I used the basic amounts of lard and mutton suet from a pomatum receipt in The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies and substituted lemon oil for bergamot and thyme. The three ingredients I didn't have on hand included alkanet root, beef marrow, and virgin wax.

On a side note, although the blog lists the pomatum receipt indicating use for hair, I'm wondering if it's actually supposed to be a lip salve. The alkanet root is what makes me question. I haven't seen it used in an explicitly "hair only" pomatum but is frequently used in lip salves. There are definitely red pomatums in other sources. For example, The Toilette de Flora  says "white" pomatum says can be used "in the same manner as other pomatums" while the instructions for "red" pomatum are a little more general in just saying to "set it by for use."

The New London Toilette lists a red pomatum with alkanet root with instructions to be "...made up into a paste and rubbed over the face..." to give it a reddish color. So take that for what it is.

Either way, it seems that pomatum in general is made up of mostly lard with a variety of other ingredients being thrown in for good measure (or good fragrance), so I felt okay using this ratio as the base for just a simple pomatum for my hair. We're constantly being reminded in the manuals, though, to not mix anything noxious to the hair into our pomatums and powders. We're way too smart for that, ladies!

Anyhow, here's what I did:

Measured out my lard. You can see how soft the lard is on my spoon. Once it was thawed I was able to scoop it out pretty reasonably into my dish.
 Lard in my bowl and on my spoon.
 The mutton was a bit harder. I ended up "cutting" it with a butter knife (more like scraping and stabbing- semantics!) and it took longer to melt.

Not as soft as the lard...

 Once I had everything measured out, I set to slowly melting it on a very low heat.

It was slow... very slow... but we made it eventually. You can see the mutton
chunks in there.
Once I was done melting, I added my clove and lemon oil to my liking and then poured into my containers for storage.
Left: three four oz ball jars for overflow (and to give to friends.)
Right: a large candle tin to store the majority of my pomatum.

I forgot to take a picture of it once it cooled, but it basically looked like the lard in the beginning. The scent does mask most of what there is of the "lard smell", especially once it's in your hair. It goes on really well and the scent stays for 5-6 days- the clove lingers longer than did the lemon. Overall, I can't wait to try the process again.

I have ordered my virgin wax and a few other ingredients and I am ready for round two. I am feeling a little more confident now that I have a bit of experience under my belt, and I'll be sure to post again with my second attempts.

Until then, I will leave you with my list of alternative literary lard loving punned titles that were almost chosen for this post. Enjoy and feel free to add your own in the comments. =)

P.S. No promises that these are PC, but hopefully you'll find them somewhat humorous.

Lard of the Rings
Lard in August
The Pigslayer
Journey to the Center of the Pig
Lard Times

I would entertain song lyrics, also...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer Afternoon

Last weekend was spent in Kenosha, WI at an event that is one of my favorites of the year. It is set right on the beach of Lake Michigan and always has some beautiful weather (including the occasional summer storm on the lake). It's an event at which we always have fun as we are able to play with some of our friends and not take ourselves terribly seriously.

Our traditional beach picture. Mrs. Fox is in Regency to
accommodate her baby bump. 

This year's fun consisted of a duel on the beach on Saturday and a trade agreement gone wrong at the Black Horse on Sunday. While I was able to watch my husband in the duel,  I regrettably missed Sunday's scenario due to the fact that Mrs. Fox was dressing my hair.

I was delighted to try out my new pomatum and powder (which I made the Wednesday before the event- post coming soon!). So far, I'm very much loving the combo. It wears very well and leaves my hair feeling great.


Side- at first I wasn't sure about
the dip between the front and
back, but then I remembered the
print of the camp laundry from our
workshop and you see a similar thing
going on beneath the cap of the
woman standing up. 


One last exciting thing that came out of last weekend (teaser!) was the beginnings of a new project within Engaging History (check back to the EH blog for more on that soon). So much for which to be excited!