1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz – Snippet 43

Tracy lounged back on the sheltered veranda with a group of Kubiak clan women watching the activities, relaxing after finally getting their assorted babies settled.

Erin Zaleski, one of Ted’s cousins, turned to Tracy. “How’s the military outfitting business going, Tracy?”

Tracy dragged her eyes from Ted, who was playing in the yard. “I’m still being run off my feet.” Tracy looked around the assembled women. They were all, like Ted, direct descendants of Jan and Mary Kubiak, the original owners of the land known locally as Kubiak Country. “I’ve got a pile of jackets that need buttonholing if anybody wants a job.”

There was a smattering of “I’m in” and “Yes, please” from the other four women. Tracy gloried in the easy camaraderie and supportive nature of the Kubiak women. It was so different from her own family, left up-time in Seattle. “If you come over the road after lunch I’ll show you what needs to be done and give you the necessary thread and buttons.”

There were murmurings of agreement before the women turned back to watching the activities going on in the yard. Their quiet contemplations were disturbed only when Tasha Kubiak set a covered tray of steaming biscuits on the table. “Tuck in while they’re still warm, girls. After this batch, there are no more.”

Mary Rose Onofrio turned away from watching Jana Barancek and a couple of other cousins trying to get everyone to sit down at a couple of food-laden tables set out by the grill. “What do you mean, Tasha?”

“This batch used the last of my baking powder.” Tasha replied.

Belle Drahuta waved a hand. “I’ve still got some if you need it.”

“Same here,” Tracy said. “I haven’t had time for much baking lately, but I think I’ve still got an unopened can in the pantry.”

“Thanks Belle, Tracy. You’d think there would be a way to get more baking powder wouldn’t you?” Tasha shook her head.

Mary Rose snorted. “Get real, Tasha. If it doesn’t go boom, none of the guys are interested. I can just imagine going up to Cousin Greg and asking him to please make some baking powder so we can do some baking. He’d laugh his head off.”

“You really think Cousin Greg would know how to make baking powder, Mary Rose?” Tasha asked.

“If he can make his boom toys and rockets I don’t see why he can’t make baking powder. I mean, how hard can it be? Baking powder has been around for I don’t know how long. It’s probably written up in one of his books somewhere and all he needs to do is look it up.”

“But, Mary Rose, that doesn’t get us any baking powder.”

“No,” Mary Rose agreed, “but it would get us some instructions on how to make it. Maybe Cousin Greg can write out a recipe. Something easy to follow. Then we could make our own baking powder.” She looked around the table at the other women, an excited look in her eyes. “That would be great wouldn’t it? We’d never have to worry about running out of baking powder ever again.”

“So when can you ask Cousin Greg for an easy to follow recipe for making baking powder?” Belle asked.

Mary Rose looked from Belle to Tasha. “I was kinda thinking, maybe Tasha might like to ask Amy to ask Cousin Greg. After all, she is a chemistry teacher in training.”

Nodding her head, her mouth full of biscuit, Tasha agreed to ask her daughter to pass on the request.

“Michael. How many times have I told you not to feed that dog from your plate,” Belle bellowed before launching herself from her chair and making her way to her son.

The ladies watched Belle put a strong restraining hand on her five-year-old son while giving her husband, who should have been watching him, a sharp talking to.

“Situation normal,” muttered Erin with a giggle.

A week later, Sunday lunch, Tasha’s place

“Guys, Amy here has come through. Come on, Amy. Show them the recipe,” Tasha said pushing her daughter towards the seated mothers. A little self-consciously Amy placed a single sheet of paper on the coffee table in front of the ladies and stood back to let them read it.

“Uh, yuk. Do you see that?” Mary Rose pointed to the first instruction. “Imagine carefully fermenting urine. Does that mean we have to, you know, ask people to fill a bottle? And why add honey? Is that to sweeten its taste?”

“Ha ha, Mary Rose. Obviously the honey is there to help fermentation,” Tasha said, continuing to run her eye down the directions. “How do you cook off limestone?” She looked up at her daughter, a question in her eyes.

With a heavy sigh Amy looked at her mother and her friends. “I think this is going to be a bit like the time Dad tried to do some baking. You remember how he couldn’t understand how you got cream from butter and sugar?” Smiling at the memory Tasha nodded her head. “I think you might want to find someone who knows a little chemistry and see if they’ll make the stuff for you.”

“But we know somebody who knows something about chemistry,” Tasha pointed out, giving her daughter a significant look.

In horror Amy took a sudden step back, getting some separation between her and her mother. “No way. Sorry, but no way. I’m much too busy at school.” She held her hands out defensively and shook her head. “Really. I think you should find yourselves a friendly alchemist and pay them to make the stuff.”

“And how are we going to find one of them?” asked Mary Rose.

“Well, Jena is a university town. There must be tons of them there.”

“So you think we should go knocking on doors in Jena asking alchemists ‘Please sir, can you make baking powder for us?'”

“Baking soda. If you’ll read the recipe again you’ll see it’s for making baking soda, not powder,” Tracy pointed out, her finger pointing to the top of the sheet.

“Amy?” Tasha turned to her daughter. “I thought you were going to ask about making baking powder?”

“I did, Mom. I asked Mrs. Penzey. She said you have to make baking soda before you can have baking powder. If you look near the bottom,” she pointed to the bottom of the sheet of paper, “you’ll see she’s included how to make baking powder. The problem is getting the cream of tartar. Mrs. Penzey says that it’s a by-product of wine making, but she’s never seen it in its raw state, and has no idea how to get any. And that’s another reason why I think you should contact an alchemist. They know about things like cream of tartar, except they probably call it something different.”

Mary Rose looked at Amy. “What you’re saying is, we can get baking soda easily, but if we want baking powder, that’s going to take a little experimentation?”

Amy nodded. “Yes.”

“That’s not so bad,” Belle said. “We can make biscuits using baking soda. I’m sure we all have some recipes that’ll work. Besides, there are tons of uses for baking soda. There’s toothpaste substitute for a start. And soon enough we should be able to get baking powder.”

Amy slipped away while the ladies sat silently digesting their thoughts.

“Tracy, are you planning on a buying trip to Jena anytime soon?” asked Tasha.

“Ted and I were planning on going down river in another week or so. I guess we can ask around. We should see if Danielle and Steve can go as well. It’s a pity we don’t have more people able to speak German. The more people searching the faster things will go.” Turning to Belle, Tracy continued, “Will you be able to look after Danielle and Steve’s two little monsters if they go?”

“Sure. They aren’t that bad, and they are closer in age to Louis and Michael than your mob. It’ll keep all of them out of my hair if they can entertain each other.”

Jena, ten days later

Ted Kubiak had lucked out. He’d managed to get an appointment with the professor of medicine at Jena. He’d actually been hoping to talk to a professor of chemistry, but there was no such thing, yet. Instead he had to settle for a lecturer in iatrochemistry, Professor Zacharias Brendel.

Zacharias waved the sheet of paper Ted had handed him. “You want to know if I can make this?”