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Just for Kids

Some farinaceous folly

By Lucy Shober


Issue #36 • November/December, 1995

Click on pictures for printable, full-sized versions to color.

Try this experiment. The next time that you are served rice, potatoes, noodles or corn for supper, take a big bite but don't swallow it until you have chewed one hundred times. On or about chew number fifty, your bite will begin to have a sweet flavor that is decidedly PASTY. That pasty flavor can be the subject of amazing study! A starchy description of the flavor can be found in the dictionary: "A carbohydrate universally diffused in the vegetable world forming the greater part of all farinaceous substances...

YIKES!! That's pretty stiff! Another description might go like this: "Taters and corn and all kinds of veggies have something in them called STARCH. If you grind them up and sift them enough they will make a floury (farinaceous) powder that's REALLY fun to play with."

Starch is really the weirdest stuff! It will, but it won' is, but it isn't! To get a better understanding for yourself, try THIS experiment. Take a cup full of DRY POWDERED CORNSTARCH and put it into a larger bowl. Slowly add COLD water a tablespoon at a time. Now (here comes the funny part) take your finger and try to stir the starch and water together. HUH?...Now that IS weird isn't it? It's wet, but it's dry! It will drip if you tilt the cup, but its MURDER to try and stir it! Sometimes the drips stop in mid air, and look wet and oozy, but when you touch them they feel as dry as a bone. This happens because the water is SUSPENDED in the floury starch, but it's not absorbed INTO each individual grain of it. (See picture.) Lots of companies use starch instead of talc in baby powders these days. Water is drawn away from a wet baby's skin and suspended in the starch so that the skin actually becomes dry!

BUT...if you had used HOT water in your experiment the whole story would have changed. In hot water, the tiny granular starch packages swell then pop and become oozey to form a great type of paste. If you are old enough, you might remember dipping your hands into buckets of warm sweet smelling starch paste as your mother re-papered the walls of your house.

AND speaking of wallpaper paste, have you ever eaten tapioca pudding? All those delicious little gelatinous balls floating around in there are REALLY cooked globs of starch from the manioc plant. WHAT COOL STUFF! You can cook with it, you can make your clothes stiff with it (by putting a hot iron to it and melting the grains into your cloth) you can glue stuff together with it, you can mix water and food coloring with it and paint on the refrigerator (then wipe it off after it becomes powdery) you can pat baby's fanny dry with it, but BEST OF ALL, you can make the MOST wonderful horrible wet, dry, alien species GLOP with it if you follow the recipe below. This recipe is one of those that came from a friend who heard about it from a friend. Neither of whom are sure of how it works, but are thrilled with the results! Ask a parent for permission first then have at it. Maybe you will be the one to figure out the scientific principal behind the amazing pulsating blob that will result!

Recipe for revolting pulsating blob offarinaceous matter:

  • 1 bottle of food coloring (any color)
  • 1 large bottle of school glue
  • 1 bottle of liquid laundry starch
  • 1 big bowl

Empty the bottle of glue into the bowl.

A kitchen experiment...with personality

A kitchen experiment...with personality

Cover your (clean) hands with some of the liquid starch, then slowly pour some starch into the bowl of glue. Now start to work the stuff around with your hands, pouring in more starch until you've achieved a mass that is easy to pick up with your hands and is not too goopy (about the consistency of loose silly putty). Now add the food coloring to get the shade that you like. Work the mass of stuff with your hands, adding starch or glue as needed. Store in an air tight container, and hope that it doesn't come alive at night and eat up your neighborhood.

Some hard facts about starch:

  • You can find it in almost every plant In the world. It is tasteless and has no smell.

  • It's not soluble in cold water.

  • It is a CARBOHYDRATE which means that it's made of CARBON and HYDROGEN and the recipe for making your own imaginary starch might be: "Into the leaves of one plant, mix one tad of sunlight, a small amount of water (hydrogen and oxygen) then breathe heavily into above mixture (that should give it a large dose of carbon dioxide!) mix well and stand back.

Some of the words in this month's JUST FOR KIDS are REALLY hard ones to understand. See how well you can match them up with their meanings.

The words   The synonyms
diffused   spread out
farinaceous   like jelly
carbohydrate   hanging
suspended   powdery
granular   dissolves
gelatinous   grainy/bumpy
soluble   carbon and hydrogen and oxygen mixed

Read More by Lucy Shober

Read More Just For Kids Articles

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