Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Argo to the rescue

No, not Jason's boat or the CIA in the movies: the corn starch brand that can be found on your grocer's shelf.

SciTechDaily reports that Scientists noticed that using Argo starch with water makes a thick glob that has interesting scientific properties.

. Fill a pool with this liquid and then run on it. Keep running, and you might as well be on a hard floor. Stop running, though, and you sink right in. Cornstarch Could Lead To Better Protective Gear “Think about what it says about the material,” says Brown, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science. “It’s very good about responding to impacts. If we can figure out the properties of this material, he said, we can figure out how to use it for making helmets, bulletproof vests and sports padding. 
Argo cornstarch is the best known brand of cornstarch, and is known to those of us who used to cook in the good old days before microwave ovens.

bake or broil or fry meat, add a tablespoon or two to the thickenings in the pan, add water and viola: nice thick gravy.

Add too much (as did my clueless roommate whose mom didn't teach her to cook) and voila: Glue.

You also could use corn starch to starch your clothes.

Remember when natural fabrics were limp and you had to starc your collars and shirts to keep them nice looking? It took starch and ironing to do that, and God bless the folks who invented spray on starch, and later who invented whatever it is that keeps fabrics nice nowadays (I'm sure it is a terrible chemical, but what the hey, greens haven't noticed yet).

so if you want to do it the good old fashioned way, here are instructions on how to mix it. Then you dip your clothes into it or sprinkle it on before you iron.

the history of Argo starch here.

more ways to use corn starch HERE.

Yes, cornstarch is an alternative to the more expensive talcum powder for diapers etc.

and then there is the phenomenum of eating starch right from the box.

we docs used to see Black women, usually pregnant, with severe iron deficiency anemia, and they would report that they had a craving for eating starch.

JAMA article here. 

Why starch? In Africa, they eat clay (i.e. from the ground).
and the habit came to the US when the people were brought here as slaves. But cornstarch had a similar consistency so women switched over to the cheaper stuff.

 According to the few doctors who have studied the subject, the craving for laundry starch is an offshoot of the clay-eating habit still prevalent among some Southern Negroes. Those who migrate North sometimes receive packages of clay (known as "Mississippi Mud" in Los Angeles) mailed by friends back home, but most switch to laundry starch, which is easier to obtain and apparently satisfies the same hunger.

So why eat clay?

Well, people with anemia get cravings to eat stuff. My white patients often ate ice (or carrots) and when they told me of this craving, invariably they were anemic and the cravings disappeared when you gave them iron tablets.

but why eat clay?

Also, clay helps calm a jittery stomach/intestine (you eat it with Kaopectate, which has kaolin, i.e. clay, along with pectin, found in apples, to calm your diarrhea).

Clay assuages hunger of course (think of it as the snack food you munch on: sort of a low cal potato chip).

And one wonders if clay is a self treatment for the hookworms that cause so much anemia in tropical countries.

Eating clay is different from eating dirt, which is more dangerous and usually found in kids or psychiatric patients. Dirt has a lot of germs and chemicals and parasite eggs; the clay is subsurface and cleaner.

My sons (Colombian born) were the ones who taught me how to find and identify clay when we were on a nature outing, they went to a river bank and dug to find clay, which they took home to make into pots, which they baked in the oven.


UKMAIL article is an easier read about the practice, and an old NYT article can be found here.
an essay on the CDC also discusses the practice LINK

So Argo starch is a modern alternative to an old cultural practice.

Business tip: if you market clay as a magic cleanser and charge a bundle for it, you too can sell it to Hollywood celebrities and get rich.

and if you don't have a river bank nearby, anecdotal stories suggest marketing Argo starch as a weight loss alternative might work.

(Yes, I am joking.)

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