When I was growing up, I often heard the expression, "slow as molasses," and it was often followed by, "running uphill, in January." Growing up in "Winterpeg" January was a pretty cold month — nothing moved very fast then. Besides this simile, we also often had molasses in the house. My dad had grown up in New Brunswick, and molasses was a staple. His birthday cake was often a molasses cake. Christmas baking — molasses cookies. With cinnamon and cloves, anything baked with molasses has a warm-on-a-winter's-night kind of feeling for me.
A few years ago someone told me about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. On January 15, 1919, a massive molasses storage tank burst in north Boston, and as much as 2,300,000 US gal came rushing out into the streets of Boston, killing 21 and injuring 150 people. How is that possible? It was January, in Boston — apparently a warmer day at +5°C — but how can molasses move quickly in January? That molasses came rolling out of the tank and down the streets in a wave 8m deep and moving at speeds up to 56 km/h. If you'd like to read more about the incident, the clean up, the research into it many years later, Wikipedia has a page with photos. It's worth the few minutes to read it.
Today, in honour of the 100th year of the Great Molasses Flood, I've baked a molasses cake (using my Aunt Louise's recipe). It's something of a novelty to my Irish husband, and a warm memory of growing up to me. I suppose I could write about how things aren't always what they appear to be, or about expecting the unexpected, but I just wanted to commemorate those 21 people who died in one of the strangest ways I've heard of. Here's to good engineering that has prevented more molasses floods, and to good cake.
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