I glanced at my holiday calendar page for December and noticed that today is National Baking Soda Day. I thought to myself that some folks at the Arm & Hammer corporation public relations department had done their jobs well. Whoever managed to choose the penultimate day of the year as their day of recognition was smart. If you must celebrate the virtues of a cheap, humble substance, try to do it during the holiday season.
A commemoration of baking soda is going to get lost in the pre-Christmas rush, so don’t even consider a day or two before that holiday. New Year’s Eve is an equally poor choice. At first blush, New Year’s Day might be good, in that many people may be looking to self-medicate hangovers; but hangovers have very negative connotations.
Most modern households have at least one box of baking soda, aka bicarbonate of soda, soda ash, sodium bicarbonate, or sodium bicarb. Chemistry geeks know it as NaHCO3. The fine, white, salty tasting powder has found a secure place in our homes and civilization.
Some anthropologists believe that the ancient Egyptians were the first group of people to utilize this substance. It was found, in its natural state, at dried up river beds. Artisans found it useful in the manufacture of glass. Some African societies have used sodium bicarbonate as a food preservative and meat tenderizer for centuries.
The ancient Romans were apparently the first to use it as a leavening ingredient in bread. When sodium bicarb is heated, carbon dioxide results. If the powder is mixed in bread dough the carbon dioxide forms bubbles which cause the mixture to rise.
Many of the promotional websites about baking soda feature lists about medical home remedies that feature bicarbonate of soda. I will not recommend baking soda for medicinal purposes, because I am not a certified medical professional. Nor do I feel it is my place to endorse self-medication for chronic or serious health concerns. I also do not wish to compose a medical disclaimer statement for my humble blog.
Because some of my family members and friends have suffered a stroke or circulatory problems, their physicians have advised them to limit the use of sodium based products. The popular literature also mentions that there is a risk of contracting a high alkalosis condition when daily ingestion of baking soda is practiced without the supervision of a physician or licensed medical professional. If you believe you must self-correct your body’s pH levels, try vegetables and fruits instead.
I remember learning that bicarbonate of soda is created naturally by our bodies as a way to regulate pH. Scientists have isolated bicarbonate of soda in human saliva. The substance helps to neutralize excess stomach acids. The natural soda in your spit also helps neutralize dental plaque.
The baking soda industry has published many lists of uses for their product. The applications have become second nature to many people. One of the easiest ways to make sure consumers buy baking soda is to promote the placing of an opened box of the powder in refrigerators to help absorb food odors. No muss, no fuss, just open the box and forget about it for awhile.
When the bicarb cannot absorb any more fridge-stink, you can use it as a mild scouring powder for kitchen appliances, countertops, and plastic surfaces. One of my friends uses it to clean his fibreglass shower walls and glass door. I recommend that you first test-clean an inconspicuous area before using soda for any of these purposes. By the way, don’t use it on aluminum surfaces.
Some people claim that baking soda works as a cleaning agent on silverware and silver vessels. My personal experience does not affirm this application. The last time I tried baking soda on a damp rag to polish a silver vase, I scrubbed and scrubbed and saw no result. I’m glad I had a bottle of chemical silver polish as a reserve cleaner.
The people who market baking soda also claim that adding a lot of it to swimming pools helps to maintain the proper alkalinity levels of the water. I don’t have a swimming pool, but I’ve experimented with it in my bath water. I can’t say that my skin is baby soft, but there is less bathtime irritation.
In my opinion, baking soda is best used for baking and cooking purposes. I’ve prepared some yummy soda breads and rolls by following the recipes I’ve found in cookbooks and online. My late aunt Emma gave me the secret to her peerless omlettes.
She added a pinch of baking soda for each egg used. If you don’t want so much flatulence after lunch, Jorge advised me to add a teaspoon or so of baking soda when preparing dried beans for chili. The sodium bicarbonate allows them to cook more quickly and the beans are also more digestable.
I like baking soda because it’s one of the safest chemical compounds around. When reasonably used, its a non-toxic, biodegradable food ingredient and household cleaning powder.
Happy baking powder day to you.