Thursday night I had the privilege of attending a small private workshop in the home of fellow food blogger Miriam Kresh. Our topic: how to make creams, lotions, salves, etc. at home. Because my blog is not exclusively a food blog (pretty obvious these days), I feel I must tell people about how interesting and fantastic this evening was. The other lovely ladies in attendance were Yael (Apples and Oranges Finnish-language food blog), Liz (of Cafe Liz), Hannah (Cooking Manager), and Sarah (of Food Bridge).
An admission: despite any (and I mean any) economic hardship I have ever had, the one thing I have never scrimped on is a very high quality face cream. Or creams, as for the past 6-7 years, I have used a day cream and a night cream and an under-eye cream or gel. Terms like wrinkle prevention, SPF A and B, alpha hydroxy, Co-Enzyme Q-10, Retin-A – I know them all, I read up, I got it all under my cap. At least I think I do. And every other month when I’m about to run out, I spend hours in the pharmacy, or department store, or natural foods/remedies store (or all of the above), comparison shopping. Price versus volume versus the quality of ingredients versus the bells-n-whistle additives. Yup. I would love to have an entirely organic, preservative-free, lightweight, highly moisturizing, sun-blocking, wrinkle-fighting, scent-free cream. It probably doesn’t exist. And if it did, it would cost me over $100 for 50 ml. Not kidding. When I was in India and discovered the Himalaya brand, I stocked up. It didn’t have SPF, but it was organic and so cheap I was sorry I couldn’t take more. A few industrious Israelis have started importing the products, but the markup just doesn’t make it worth it anymore.
Enter Miriam. This incredible prolific writer and blogger is a true Renaissance woman. She makes wines and liquors in her own home, and they are wonderful. She harvest fruits and herbs from trees and plants in her own neighborhood. She used to have her own soap company. And for the last couple of decades, she has also made all of her own creams. These creams are luxurious and of the same, if not better, quality as those that the big time cosmetic companies produce. And knowing Miriam, her homemade creams really work.
I won’t bore the world with recipes and a summary of what we did. Basically, we were gathered around the stove melting things, steeping things, and mixing things. It’s as easy as that. I came home with a salve (oil and beeswax solution) infused with rosemary, sage, and oregano, mixed with chamomile and lavender essential oils AND a cream (oil/beeswax/shea butter phase mixed with a water-based phase with added Borax that functions as an emulsifier) infused with chamomile and plantain, with essential oils of geranium and ylang ylang. Oh yeah, we also enjoyed a lovely cream of mushroom soup that Miriam made, served with whole wheat crackers, goat butter, and homemade pesto. And a bottle of wine.
So many of the ingredients in the creams, most of them I would say, come off of our kitchen shelves. Those that don’t are very easily obtainable at a health food shop and/or pharmacy. For $25, you can have more than one year’s worth of face cream. You heard me right. And the added bonus – you get to choose! Choose the fragrance, choose the specific type of oil that is best for your skin, choose the quality, choose the medicinal additives. It’s a do-it-yourself beauty and health smörgåsbord.
All this reminded me yet again of how far we have distanced ourselves from the essential realities of what it means to be alive on this planet. I’ve written quite a bit on the artificiality of our foods, our ignorance of where and how our foods are created, cooked, and delivered to us, etc. Here is another important factor in our lives. The detergents, soaps, shampoos, and yes, creams (that cost me a fortune and so much heartache) that we use daily are made with a thousand and one chemicals, and many of these things aren’t even cheap. So here’s a challenge I’m presenting to myself. In the year ahead I will endeavor to create all of my own face creams (with the exception of adding an SPF factor which I’m not actually certain is entirely possible for me to make). There are also recipes online for homemade laundry detergents, soaps, household cleansers, and more. In this economy, and with the concern for our health, safety, and the environment, I think it’s important to take these matters into our own hands. It makes perfect sense.