My Mom, having recently retired, has been going through different bits of her life and organizing things. She has gotten as far as her recipes and its taking the lifetimes worth of accumulated recipes and making it orderly. One of the things that she ran across was the recipe for a "Depression Plant". The recipe is as follows,
1 piece of coal or coke
Place in shallow dish
Pour the following over the coal or coke:
1. 2 Tablespoons clear ammonia (not the sudsy ammonia)
2. 5 Tablespoons water
3. 6 Tablespoons of bluing
4. 6 Tablespoons of nonidodized salt
5. 2 drops red food coloring
Place dish in window or other convenient place.
Add water to keep moist and watch this grow resembling a coral plant.
She was suggesting that it might be an interesting science experiment for our 11 yr old son, which it would. However, thinking about it a bit, I had several observations, as I do about most everything.
- Nothing says childhood experiment like ammonia and bluing. Next week will be the 'tequila and handgun' experiment. That is just the new age father in me, protecting my child against all dangers. Well back in my day we drank ammonia for fun and laughed at pain. Okay, that didn't really happen, but I am certain that its true for generations previous to me. To prove that, my maternal Grandfather ate a jar of vaseline with a spoon, when he was very little. He wasn't forced to eat it, nor was it a bet or anything, he just sat down and ate it. Being the classy guy that I am, I will avoid any Marmite (tm) comments at this point. Anyways, perhaps it was early precursor to a happy meal.
- When referring to coke, I was wondering if Diet Coke would work. Ah, no, thats probably not it. Are Depression Plants big in Colombia? Probably not that either. Yes, it is likely something to do with coal. I don't think I have ever been around a house that was coal fired. Closest approximation would be various renditions of Dickens' "Christmas Carol" and maybe the movie "A Christmas Story".
- What about bluing? Does anybody under 35 years old have a clue what 'bluing' is? While I am fairly certain that every grocery store probably has it, I do know with some certainty that it is futile to ask a grocery store clerk where the bluing is. Its the same futility that I had quite a number of year ago when I went around to all the stores in town that sold computer gear, looking for a 'SCSI terminator'. I needed one right away and went on a walkabout to get one. Mostly I got bewildered stares with a periodic 'that some kinda software or sumthun?". I eventually found a friend that I could bum one off of until I could order one through the mail.
As my friend Bruce says, this experiment will be a "teachable moment". I am going out on a limb here, but I think that my internet-attached, videogame-obsessed, 24-hr-cartoon-availability-appreciating son will regard it as a 'ho-hum' and likely say something on the order of "thats what you consider entertainment?". I'll happily fend off the attack with "No, thats what Grandma considered entertainment when she was a little girl". After all, we had the benefit of things like Gilligans Island to avoid the appearance of an entertainment wasteland.
We'll see how the experiment goes...