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View Diary: The Mild, Mild West (121 comments)

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  •  Everyone drank alcohol (15+ / 0-)

    From toddlers to grown ups. Small beer for the young (after weaning), distilled liquors, beer and ale, cider (and other alcoholic fruit drinks like murrey and perry), mead, and wine for the adults.

    Tea and coffee were not drunk in Europe until well into the 18th century. Though tea was introduced in the mid 17th century, it did not catch on until the 1850's or so. Coffee came even later.

    "Soft" drinks were invented about the same time, but did not catch on until about a century ago. Lemonade was a common drink in some places from about 1700 on, one of the few non-alcoholic beverages, though available only when lemons were in season.

    Fresh farm and countryside spring water wouldn't likely kill you, but city water in many places could easily make you sick. Why? Because more often than not, the river you got it from was also the town sewer, filled with human and animal feces and urine, as well as run-off from tanneries, slaughterhouses, manufactories, etc.

    Typically, wine and beer was made very thick and was watered according to the age, class, and sensibilities of the drinker. Humorously, one of the basic tests for the quality of beer in northern Europe, during the middle ages, was to pour it onto a seat and then sit on it for a period of time. If you tried to stand up and stuck to it, it was considered good quality (obviously taste, clarity, and other qualities were considered as well). A very respected town official was the beer taster. Nice work if you could get it.

    The modern American horror at the idea of children drinking alcohol is based on sheer ignorance of history and late 19th and early 20th century misinformation about alcohol, generally directed at keeping the lower classes in their place and not offending the delicate sensibilities of the "right kind of people."

    Modern sensibilities about children and alcohol are predicated entirely on the availability of fresh milk, soft drinks, fruit juices year 'round, and clean tap water. They are also based on the modern idea of "children," which did not actually exist until about 75 years ago. Ever wonder why there were so many "I was a teenaged whatever" movies in the post-war years? Because, before then, "teenagers" as we think of them today didn't exist as a concept. Children were often considered "adult" at puberty (yes, bar mitzvahs really DID mean today you were a man). Before then, they were basically considered just small adults "owned" by their parents.

    So much of what Americans think about the world is based on misconceptions and sheer ignorance. Willful and arrogant ignorance in the case of most conservatives.

    •  I recall reading about tea ... (11+ / 0-)

      ... that it was long considered (in China, Japan, etc. at least) a miracle health beverage.  The reasoning was this:

      "When I drink plain old normal water -- like, say, that scummy pond water over there -- I tend to get sick and die.

      But if I boil some TEA in that scummy pond water, I don't get sick and die!  That tea sure has some miraculous qualities!"

      To people who had no concept of microscopic organisms, let alone that boiling water killed them, it was a completely logical conclusion to draw.
    •  ...and just to state what (7+ / 0-)

      might not be obvious to some, alcohol kills germs. So even watered beer and wine were safe, because the alcohol sterilized the water. On sailing vessels rum served the same purpose; "grog" is simply watered rum.

      In ancient Greece and Rome, wine was watered before serving as a matter of course. Anyone who drank their wine straight was considered a drunkard and a boor.

      "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

      by sidnora on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:11:59 AM PDT

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      •  Speaking of cider, that's why John Chapman, (9+ / 0-)

        "Johnny Appleseed", planted so many trees.

        The trees that Chapman planted had multiple purposes, although they did not yield edible fruit. The small, tart apples his orchards produced were useful primarily to make hard cider and applejack. Orchards also served the critical legal purpose of establishing land claims along the frontier. As a consequence, Chapman owned around 1,200 acres of valuable land at the time of his death.
        The legend of Johnny Appleseed differs from the life of the historical John Chapman in several key respects. While Chapman planted strategically, for profit, the Johnny Appleseed character sowed seeds at random and without commercial interest. The fact that Chapman's crops were typically used to make alcohol was also excluded from the Appleseed legend. Despite these discrepancies from the historical record, the Johnny Appleseed character reflects an interest in frontier settlement during a period of expansion in the far western portion of the continent.

        I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 08:09:26 AM PDT

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        •  The LH and I (0+ / 0-)

          recently went to visit a heritage apple farm, where antique breeds are conserved and propagated. It was fascinating and delicious. We attended a talk where we tasted about a dozen "antique" apples that were grown for eating, but the lecturer emphasized that most apples grown in colonial times were intended for cider.

          "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

          by sidnora on Sat Jun 07, 2014 at 04:33:42 AM PDT

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      •  Small beer (6+ / 0-)

        and the like was really mostly effective against cholera.  Which, to be fair, was most of the problem, most of the time.  The alcohol content wouldn't have bothered many other bugs, I would think.

        "Actually, I just like saying Benghazi. Benghazi benghazi benghazi benghazi!" --Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA

        by jackdabastard on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 08:24:39 AM PDT

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    •  I always like the label on St Paulie Girl Beer (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BRog, Aunt Pat, Ahianne, itsjim, SilentBrook, ram27

      That says it complies with the purity law of 1516.  An early 16th century health code.  Probably something along the lines of don't piss in the beer vat.

      "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

      by blackhand on Fri Jun 06, 2014 at 07:53:48 AM PDT

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