A Man of Simple Tastes: The Art of Bubble Bath Curation [Part 2]
Look before you leap… into the water. I promised advice, but I must start with an apology - an admission. The perfect bath won’t come easy. You have to work for your relaxation. But, with careful consideration and attention, you’ll realise that filling a tub with water and sitting down in it isn’t quite as complex as it sounds.
But where to focus your attention? When you cook – if you can cook - you know there are a few moments through any recipe where you simply cannot step away for a sip of wine or change of song. Get those moments of heat control wrong and the whole thing will taste careless and cold. Same with running a bath - you have to know where to pay your attention.
The first question is water. If one was planning the bath-to-end-all-baths, there would be a geographical consideration - day-to-day, worrying about particular mineral characteristics is probably unnecessary… ideally, I’d like a selection of tubs around the world with a variety of concentrations of calcium, magnesium and clarities. For now, don’t bother moving house for the sake of your Wednesday evening soak.
Anyway, the general rule regarding temperature is simple - how high can you go? The excoriating sting of real sweat-inducing heat is the first step to carrying your body out of this world.
After consideration and discussion, I suspect there are two schools of thought regarding bath-running. The traditional school says drawing a bath is a singular process: you run your water once – a full tub - achieve your desired temperature and bathe until water and body cool together. This seems just fine. However, my approach is to start with a relatively small amount of incredibly hot water - potentially with a few torrents of cold rained in to encourage bubbles - and then wait until the near-boiling water is tolerable. I then top-up throughout the bathing session, gradually increasing the temperature in a crescendo of heat until the final cool.
(N.B. It is vital to have a well-worn escape routine in case of over-heating: my preferred techniques are to raise and hang myself sloth-like from the edges of the tub or to perch on the edge, head between my legs in the hunched, macho style of a Turkish steam room.)
This is perhaps the most subjective of all questions - just choose something relaxing. However, I find my own habits interestingly indicative of the immersive intensity I love. I switch between eerily sparse, rhythmless ambient music and hard, dark transporting techno - yes, really - or transcendent renaissance polyphony, rich and calm. Hypnotic and celestial, the music leaves space to think. If you'd rather relax into the regression of water-womb comfort, the vital characteristic is familiarity. This is the golden rule: stick with what you know… a bath is not the time or place to have nasty surprises sprung through the water. Go for intimacy and nostalgia.
In the past I have drunk all manner of things while submerged - hot, cold, alcoholic, soft. However, the combination I prefer is cold drink (i.e. condensation-on-the-glass cold), with salty, crunchy food. Beer and crisps. Whether its fruity IPA or a pissy export lager, the combination of the bitter hops with the tang and snap of the crisps is perfect. Though, admittedly I tend to face opposition, or at least concern, about the crisps – ‘what if you drop them in?’. No one likes a soggy crisp…be careful.
I have chosen just three areas of consideration here - yet think of the enormity of some of the things unmentioned like soap, oil, maybe some salt? How many rubber ducks is too many rubber ducks? Company? If you have company what’s your configuration? Face to face? Bobsleigh? Side-by-side? Who goes tap-end? Who holds the crisps? Is this frantic, rapid-stream of questions ironic? No! This is Serious Stuff. Like the humble cup of tea, the bubble bath seems simple. But how many people do you trust to make your tea…properly?
By James John, writer for Private Room.