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What We Drink With What We Eat: a Cultural Log Refelection

When I first started this class I came in wanting to know about how what we drink with what we eat has affected not only the food-way’s we have now but also the drink-ways we have also set up around the world. To do this I have spent time reading and doing research on the beverages that have impacted the history of the world the most. Yes I made each one tie into the area of the world we were talking about that week in class but by doing this I still came across a lot of reference material that talked about the history of: Tea, Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Coffee. Each paper that I have written for this class has been focused on one of these beverages, and it has surprised me how much the history of a country can be drawn up in a beverage. They are all drunk all over the world and have so many different varieties that you will never get the same thing depending on where you go, and while I didn’t do a research paper on soda I read about how it is sweeping the world right now. Coke even has different flavors and mixtures depending on what part of the world you are in, because the coke you get in Japan is not the same coke you get in Mexico or the US. I have also learned a great deal about how we as a people would not be where we are today if it were not for some of the drinks we have discovered.

Beer is the best example that I can think of for this because if it were not for beer, we potentially would not have changed from a hunter gather society to an agricultural society. The history of beer alone can and has filled many different books. Tea is no different than beer in this respect because it has influenced the Asian countries for centuries. Tea has also played a large role in our own history because of how blood thirsty the British were at getting it. When you have a country forcing you to buy opium so that they can turn around and buy tea from you it is just ridiculous. However, tea is not the only beverage that has impacted our history.

Alcohol, I came to learn from my different readings, has been prohibited many different times for many different reasons. Here in the US we had our own prohibition of alcohol that only seemed to accomplish the creation of more mob activities.  There are pictures of senators and celebrities still going out and drinking. Alcohol has also been prohibited for religious reason as well. What is really funny however is that in the same religions they still have a beverage that is alcoholic but it represents something else, like the wine in the communion cup represents the Blood of Christ. Wine however has always had a place in religion, and it was very interesting to see how rice wine or sake played a part in many different Japanese religions and ceremonies, like the blessing of a wedding or the anointment of a new samurai sword. At this point wine has spread all over the world and you can find some very great wines outside of France today, regardless of the fact that wine really gets it start in the Mediterranean and Middle East it has a presence in every country today.

Another beverage that is consumed all over the world is coffee. Next to tea and water it is the third most popular beverage in the world, and there are so many different ways to drink coffee. Like tea, coffee is made and harvested with a fanatical precision that in and of itself is a marvel to learn about. With coffee being relatively new to the world with respect to time, I would say that it has had the strongest impact on the world in recent years. The Fair Trade Coffee organization is doing worlds of good for the economy of the local people in coffee producing nations.

With all of this different research that I have had to do I have come to two conclusions about human history and culture. The first is that throughout our history we have always been looking for something to drink besides water. Even though we need water to live and we are programmed to drink and crave water we have always been looking for a way to make water taste better, or be safer for us to drink. This has taken many different forms across our history. As you told us in class, Roman soldiers would carry vinegar with then to not only help quench their thirst but also to help purify it. Making beer, tea, and coffee is really the same thing. In all of the cases these three beverages were used to have something else to drink besides water. The slaves who built the pyramid were paid in bread and beer. The second conclusion that I have come to from all of my research is that as a people we like to get drunk. We like to have a chance to loosen up. What other reason can we have for deciding to drink what was essentially a poison meant to be perfume, but something went “wrong”. Today alone there is a holiday celebrated all over the US and most other Christian nations were we get together and drink. I’m talking about Saint Patrick’s Day, and it has ties to other parties like it throughout our history. Before we had spirits and liquors like we do today people would hold great bacchanals and get drunk as sin on wine.

With all of this drinking we get hungry, or maybe when we are eating we are thirsty and want something to drink. Regardless of how it happens we are always eating and drinking at the same time. Most of the time we are drinking something that goes with what we are eating because it tastes good, or really complements the ingredients; there have been whole books written about that very topic and all of them have a different opinion about what best goes with what. There are some very real stories and then there are the myths but let’s look at one of my favorites- the sandwich.  You could argue that the sandwich was around well before it was called the sandwich but I am going to go with the line of thought that it was the Earl of Sandwich who while drinking his beer and playing cards wanted to have something to eat. At the same time he didn’t want to have to eat it with a knife and fork because he didn’t want the cards to get dirty so he asked his chef to come up with something he could eat with one hand and not get messy. The chef knowing he was drinking a beer may have made the connection that he could put mustard, meat, and cheese together between bread and this could be accomplished. Low and behold the sandwich was born! Let stop and think about this for a moment, think about a hot day at a ball game or maybe even in your back yard. You have a beer and a hamburger or cheese burger, really it’s just meat cheese and bread, but the beer tastes so good with the burger, and for me at least I would always rather have a beer or soda with my burger then water.

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