May the Best Soap Win

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Makers of Savon de Marseille have faced off in a scenario worthy of a courtroom procedural. Old School manufacturers of the original soap have history on their side, as Louis XIV gave his stamp of approval to their mélange of soda ash, olive oil, and seawater, but upstarts such as Occitane have tinkered with the recipe, modifying the dull green product with perfumes and additives better suited (they claim) to a modern clientele.

Which side is going to win this quarrel over legitimacy? According to The New York Times, a panel will weigh in this September with a report of their investigation. Stay tuned for the results.

In the meantime, what is a confused customer supposed to do about his or her leg cramps? French grandmothers have long held that there is no better antidote for shooting pains that have us bounding out of our beds in the middle of the night than Savon de Marseille slipped under the bed sheets. The miracle soap can also relieve those who suffer from rheumatic pain, but les mémères aren’t the only ones sold on this cure. When I made a trip to Lavender Blue recently for a tablecloth from Provence, shop owner Catherine Giraud introduced me to the medicinal features of the soap. “Ah, oui. C’est très connu.”

Salt lick

By Kate Brady [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

The square block of soap is long lasting, but it’s about as bulky as the salt lick we used to put out for horses in Oklahoma. I wondered whether there were other options and found that alternatives abound. Though they don’t ship to the U.S., I’ve appealed to Claire to bring back a few of les tranches “grand-mère” — slices slim enough to accommodate the most restless sleeper. For those wanting to try an alternative solution stateside, The People’s Pharmacy has its own version of the healing soap.

However the chips fall in September, my thoughts will be with poor Louis XIV and his desire for a little quality control. Though he was eventually felled by gangrene, it’s fitting and sad that the first symptom of the Sun King’s health issues was a sharp pain in his leg.

— Linda

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