You’ve come a long way baby… And then you have to wonder what would make me think of an old Virginia Slims slogan. The slogan itself seems appropriate for the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head today. I have started thumbing my way through a book dealing with the early history of beer in the U.S. When I say early history, I mean the years before 1840.
If you know anything about this time in history, you might know that it was the time before pasteurization. At this time alcohol was safer to drink than water. In Europe much of the water ways were polluted beyond any hope of cleaning (when you think of how wasteful our ancestors have been you may wonder how any one has survived this long). Beer was the base drink for most, the everyday drink.
The story (of course not taught in schools) goes that the reason the pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock was because the ships were running dangerously low on beer. A product that required special equipment and time to make. The water of the new world was far cleaner than the water from home, but how do you convince people that have found nothing but disease and suffering from water to drink it?
Think of this setting, and then picture the Puritans. A group with strong religious beliefs. The very name stems from pure. It is from this group that much of our moral beliefs have come from. Do you find it as odd as I do that now the puritanical belief is that alcohol is bad and evil, when the original Puritans needed it to survive?
I might have talked about this at one point, but there was a time a while back when I was in an Amish area of Indiana. I found a few antiques in a shop that to me were clearly meant for crushing grain and other brewing related items. This of course aroused my curiousity. When I asked someone working in the shop about it, I of course received the death stare for even considering such a thing.
So this brings me to a question we should all ask ourselves. When do we come to a point that we can forgive ourselves of the sins of our past? Clearly our ancestors viewed alcohol as a necessary part of life. Will there come a time when we no longer feel shame or guilt for enjoying the beverages that brought about civilization?
I think it may be time for a pint (we may just find some answers at the bottom of a glass)…