Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol--Part 2

This is the second part of interesting facts and anecdotes I found in Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately.

Pulque was the fermented sap of the agave plant and very popular with the Aztecs. Pulque had a mother goddess and a group of immortal guardians called the Centzontotochtli ("the 400 Moon Rabbit Gods of Pulque"). Pulque brewers abstained from sex during fermentation as they thought sex might make the brew sour. A person who broke abstinence might be possessed by an angry rabbit god. (p.97)

The Aztecs had some of the strictest drinking laws of almost any culture. In general, only Aztecs over the age of 52 could drink pulque whenever they wanted. If you broke this law, you might be executed. Luckily, there were some exceptions to the law. The nobility, warriors, pregnant women, pulque brewers and some priests could drink pulque wih varying degrees of freedom. (p.98)

There was one Aztec festival where everyone was actually required to drink pulque. This was the Pillahuana ("Drunkenenss of Children") festival, held every fourth year. Even babies were made to drink pulque at this festival. Imagine an entire community all drunk at the same time. (p.98-99)

The Aztecs also believed certain people who cursed by the stars to drink. If you were born on the day of Umetochtli ("2-Rabbit"), then you were considered destined to be a drunk. Their drunkeness was considered an alibi for any crime. Though they still bore a stigma as they were generally hated by everyone else in the community. (p.99)

The famous Mayflower was originally a claret ship that transported Bordeaux wine from France to England. (p.122)

In early eighteenth-century New England, the most popular alcoholic drink, in terms of volume, was locally produced cider. Throughout much of this period, cider served as a currency. It was used to pay salaries and product prices could be quoted in barrels of cider. (p.152)

In France in the latter half of the eighteenth century, there was a monopoly on the retail of spirits and it was held by the master lemonade-makers of Paris. (p.175)

In the U.S., during the eighteenth century, a still was the largest, most complex and valuable man-made object carried west by settlers. (p.216)

After the Civil War, lager beer replaced whiskey as the drink of choice of the workingman. This was due to many factors, including a lower price for lager, as well as a surge in the quality and availability of lager. (p.315)

British ships that traveled to India during the nineteenth century often carried lots of beer. But the journey crossed the equator twice and exposed the beer to extreme variations in temperature and motion. To survive, it had to be brewed in a specific style, which came to be known as India Pale Ale (IPA). The recipe for IPA was based on the traditional English October Ale, a strong, heavily hooped brew, matured in the barrel for a year and then aged in the bottle for up to ten years. (p.329)

The Japanese concept of jogo is the "tendency to change character when drunk." There are three categories of jogo: rai-jogo ("happy drunk"), naki-jogo ("lachyrmose drunk"), and neji-jogo ("nasty drunk"). (p.446)

Until the 1970s, Hong Kong had little place for Western alcohol. But, then they became passionaye about luxury French Cognac. By the mid-1980s, they were the heaviest per capita consumer of Cognac in the world. Why? The Hong Kong Chinese felt it was a social duty to show their wealth. Cognac was the most expensive form of Western alcohol. Cognac was also though to help the male sex drive. plus, its amber color appealed to the Chinese who thought it looked expensive, rather than colorless vodka or gin. (p.448-450)

1 comment:

Kim - Easy French Food said...

Richard, Well those are a nice bunch of anectdotes that leave one thirsty for more. I'm off to check out this French lemonade story. I'm sure you know too that the Japanese have also become fans of champagne and that cognac is a popular drink with the rapper crowd.