Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In Vino Veritas

I confess to an ulterior motive in suggesting the topic of "your favorite beverage."  A couple of years ago, I read a fascinating book title A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage.  His essential thesis was that you can trace the development of human history in the world by looking at 6 different beverages.

In order of the chapters, here are the 6 glasses he discussed: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, coca-cola, with a post script chapter on water.  Here is a quick summary, if you are curious to know a bit more about this book.

As human civilization was beginning, water could not be trusted as a healthy source of liquid. Thus, when the first discovery of beer (or wine...there's an uncertainty as to which occurred first) was made, humans had a solution to how to partake of a beverage without getting sick from the mere drinking of it. Beer and wine were both safe sources. 

Then came spirits--i.e. hard liquor. Standage traces the trade cycle that was set up--slaves, sugar, spirits. Thus, the distilling of hard liquor was intimately tangled up with the burgeoning slave trade--a linkage I had not contemplated before.

Next was coffee--which in part helped to fuel the age of enlightenment. Coffee houses sprang up, people gathered and talked over emerging ideas.

Tea was known long before it became a global drink--in China and in India. But when European empires began to push outward, and tea was among the discoveries, it soon became an international commodity.

And last, there is coca-cola. Well, that one you can figure out for yourself, given its most recent development.

Water--that's the next beverage that will (or is) having an impact on human history. Standage doesn't explore this beverage in depth, but notes that future clashes will occur around availability of water.

So, what's my favorite beverage. Well, the blog title tips it--in vino veritas

I was raised in a family that belonged to a tee-totaling church. In fact, my grandfather felt so strongly about temperance that he postponed traveling from Ontario, Canada where he was born and raised, to the U.S. (to marry my grandmother) because there was a local law under consideration that banned alcohol.  I don't know if the law passed, but if it did, it was doomed to failure--as was Prohibition in the United States.

It was not until I was in high school, working at my first summer job, that I even tasted anything alcoholic.  When my husband and I first got married, wine was not much of a presence on the American scene. That is ironic, of course, since the U.S. third president, Thomas Jefferson, was very much an oenophile.  In the late 1960s to early 1970s, wine was mainly available as "wine coolers" (remember them?) or sweetened wine.  So my introduction to "real" wine was quite delayed. 

In the last number of years, my husband and I have gone of various trips to parts of Europe. Several of these trips have included wine tastings--though that is not their primary purpose. Through this exposure, I have slowly enhanced my understanding of wine and appreciation of it. And, for me, it's RED wine!

Beverages may seem like an odd topic--but, think about it. Liquids are essential to human existence. Many of the traditions which we have in celebrations--for example clinking our glasses together--arise out of beverage consumption. Standage, the author of the aforementioned book, notes that beer was usually drunk from a common container--everyone drinking out of the same vessel. So, uniting our glasses by touching them recreates an age-old ancestral tradition.

So, here's to your health--as I raise my glass! 


Anvilcloud said...

There seem to be a few of similar backgrounds in this little group.

Jayne said...

As I've pondered the topic this week, I've been at a loss for exactly what to write, as I don't really have a favorite beverage, but I'm so enjoying the posts I've read... now thinking....

Ruth said...

We never had a drop of alcohol in my childhood home. I remember my first and only wine cooler and thought it was disgusting. I have never developed a taste for wine or spirits and can make a glass of wine last several hours. The books sounds very interesting and I will see if it is at our library.

NCmountainwoman said...

My parents were Southern Baptist but not a day went by that my mother didn't have her Jack Daniels. One drink, never two. I have a glass of wine every evening and I do enjoy a mixed drink at parties. But it's coffee that I could not do without.

Ginnie said...

I toast you back, KBMomb ... albeit a drink with no alcohol !