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When Molasses Attacks

The other night I bought some molasses ("treacle," to some of you) for use in a brown bread recipe. It occurred to me as I chose the bottle that I know next to nothing about molasses, and whether I wanted blackstrap or unsulphured or what exactly. Up here in the Northwest we don't use a lot of molasses. Ask us about salsa, now, or various types of milk foam used in espresso drinks, and we could talk for hours. But I digress.

Fortunately, I chose unsulphured molasses and not blackstrap--since, having now done the Wikipedia research, I learn that blackstrap is bitter and disgusting; it's sugar-cane juice boiled down several times until most of the sugar has crystallized out, leaving behind the minerals in a sticky black goo. Since blackstrap molasses is high in iron and magnesium, people do use it in health-food recipes, so it is available in the store; but for your brown bread and cookies, you want unsulphured, which is the finest type, made from sun-ripened sugar cane. ("Sulphured," incidentally, is a grade in between: made with unripe sugar cane, and then treated with sulphur during the sugar-crystal-extraction process.)

But at the end of their molasses entry, Wikipedia casually mentions, "A famous incident involving molasses was the Boston Molasses Disaster on January 15, 1919, in which a large molasses storage tank burst and flooded a neighborhood of Boston, killing 21 and injuring 150." The hell you say? In the Northwest, again, while we do get the Boston Tea Party in our grade-school history courses, we do not get the Boston Molasses Disaster, so this was news to me.

Naturally I clicked on it, and, wow.
"The molasses flowed out in a wave between 8 and 15 ft (2.5 to 4.5 m) high, moving at 35 mph (56 km/h) and exerting a pressure of 2 ton/ft² (200 kPa). Twenty-one people were killed and 150 injured as the hot molasses crushed, asphyxiated, and cooked many of the victims to death."

Good freakin' Lord.

"To this day, people say that molasses left from this disaster still seeps up from some of the streets on a hot day."

OK, I shouldn't laugh.

Anyway, you should click on it. There's a photo of the aftermath and everything. But be careful out there: as the Atkins Diet folks have long been warning us, sugar products can kill.

*munches on brown bread, reading in fascination*



( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2005 09:38 am (UTC)
I've got that in a book--"Einstein's Refrigerador and other tales from the flip side of History." It's my brother's book, actually, but it's been in the bathroom for about three months so I figure it's fair game. Bears a striking resemblance to the Darwin Awards, though less frequently involving death.

Mar. 8th, 2005 02:33 pm (UTC)
And you didn't tell me? Well, next time you hear of a catastrophe involving baking products, you'll be sure to mention it, I hope. It has got to be on the top ten list of "weirdest ways to die I've ever heard of".
Mar. 8th, 2005 09:59 am (UTC)
Modern Marvels profiled the molasses disaster in one of their "engineering disaster" specials. Creepy.
Mar. 8th, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC)
So what did cause a tank of a zillion gallons of molasses to explode? Just got way too hot?
(no subject) - platypus - Mar. 8th, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 8th, 2005 10:07 am (UTC)
mmm brown bread.

And I've always had a fear of drowning to death in a flood of molasses -- though I don't think the fear ever involved being cooked to death because of it.

Mar. 8th, 2005 02:34 pm (UTC)
*lifts eyebrow*
Did you have this fear before hearing of this accident? Because I must admit it would never have occurred to me. And I'm fairly phobic.
(no subject) - laleonaenojada - Mar. 8th, 2005 04:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mollyringle - Mar. 8th, 2005 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 8th, 2005 10:44 am (UTC)
Wow. That is easily the most intriguing thing I've seen on LJ in quite a while.
Mar. 8th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
Shouldn't they teach this kind of thing in U.S. History? I sure would have stayed awake more often.
Mar. 8th, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
And what a way to go, eh?
Mar. 8th, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC)
Hehe...so seldom does a "ph3ar the brittle" icon have such relevance to a post. And, yes: totally bizarre way to die. It's almost like the angels of death were messing around with people for kicks that day.
Mar. 8th, 2005 03:24 pm (UTC)
I could say that'd be an ironic way to go for people who love sweet stuff and alcohol (The being told it will kill you one way or another), but that seems a bit off.

Also...errrgh at the being cooked to death in treacle... bleargh. Horrible.
Mar. 8th, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)
Dude. I mean....dude!!

I realize that I am a bad, bad person for finding this at all humorous, but...I mean...death by molasses!

If you've gotta go, "smothered by sugar" definitely ranks right up there with "read self to death" and "died from complications resulting from a hickey inflicted by Johnny Depp" on the "fun and amusing ways to kick the bucket" chart...
Mar. 8th, 2005 07:28 pm (UTC)
It's like in Theif of Time: A woman kills herself by diving/drowning into a vat of chocolate.

A good way to go.
(no subject) - mollyringle - Mar. 8th, 2005 09:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 8th, 2005 06:19 pm (UTC)
On a similar note, I must take this time to mention the Great Molasses Tidal Wave that occurred in Memphis, Tennessee in 1872. Because of loading dock accident, a cask of molasses burst open and spilled forth an eight-foot tall wave of treacle. It surged down a busy city street towards the Mississippi River. Over a dozen people were injured, though no deaths occurred.

*Giddy* 'Tis not often I get to bring up such a fact up in mixed company.
Mar. 8th, 2005 09:06 pm (UTC)
So, wait now, molasses has gotten loose and menaced Americans more than once? I find this dreadfully funny. Man, and here I was under the impression molasses was easy to outrun.

True, the topic doesn't often come up, but I'm always up for hearing about foodstuffs rampaging through towns, so feel free to post more such tidbits if you know of any. History seldom gets more interesting than that.
Mar. 8th, 2005 06:48 pm (UTC)
In my 8th grade history class we talked about that. One of the more... interesting things of life. Sad, but still interesting. And weird.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - ainu_laire - Mar. 8th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mollyringle - Mar. 12th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mollyringle - Mar. 8th, 2005 09:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 8th, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC)
Whoa! That would have been interesting to hear in school. I also would have probably stayed awake to hear that story.

Geez...I'm just imagining some poor person being hit with this tidal wave of hot sticky molasses and being drowning. Grodie.
Mar. 8th, 2005 08:20 pm (UTC)
Ahem...scratch the 'being' in the last sentence. Thank you.
(no subject) - mollyringle - Mar. 8th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 8th, 2005 10:23 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness! I'd never heard about that either. Wow.
Mar. 9th, 2005 02:26 am (UTC)
I wonder if the sunday sport was around in 1919
Mar. 9th, 2005 07:20 am (UTC)
There were a few deaths here in England about 15 years ago caused by people being hit by vegetables. Some crazy person thought it'd be fun to throw various veg from a fairly fast moving car. I remember a jogger died from a ruptured spleen after he was hit with a marrow. And my mother always told me vegtables were good for you!
Mar. 10th, 2005 08:49 am (UTC)
Oh dear. I found the Mollasses thing scary/facinating/slightly amusing, but this vegetable attrocity just shows that NO FOODSTUFFS ARE SAFE!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES PEOPLE!! (also, excuse the spelling mistakes if you could be so kind...I'm sorry!)
(no subject) - mollyringle - Mar. 12th, 2005 07:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )

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