Sunday, September 28, 2008
I have a thing about soap; in fact, I may write a future blog post about my love of soap in general. But today I want to talk about a particular kind of soap - castile soap, also know by the French name "savon de Marseille" (which means "Marseille soap").
Soapmakers in the Marseille region of France have been making soaps in the traditional manner for hundreds of years. The soaps have a pure vegetable oil (as opposed to rendered animal fat) base, and are much milder to the skin than tallow-based soaps. (They're also animal-friendly - important to me as a vegetarian.)
Castile soap was traditionally made with olive oil, although Marseille soaps eventually came to be made with either olive oil (which produces a green soap) or palm oil (which produces a cream-coloured soap).
You can still buy castile soap today, and it usually comes stamped with the oil content (below).
Castile soap is made throughout the Mediterranean region, but the soap made in the Marseille region of France is one of the most well-known. Marseille soap will be stamped with the word "Marseille." I bought this soap yesterday at L'Occitane, a French chain of soap and body care stores.
I'm using this soap in my kitchen, of all places. It makes a great dish soap if you rub the dishcloth on it, then wipe the greasy dishes. This soap is scented with lavender, but I also love the smell of pure olive oil soap without any scent - it's subtle and earthy, and makes me feel virtuous.