Mythorelics

Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Alcohol, class affiliation and self-conception in the USA

Ever wonder about the dual connotations of “drink” and “drunk”? Was a time, water was rarely clean or safe, and people drank fermented beverages instead. Only when different socializations (cultures) clashed due to increased proximity, did pejorative connotations associated with alcoholic consumption really take hold.
Almost from the beginning, the polity of the US has engaged in efforts to re-socialize, or at least control, through force, rather than persuasion (or compromise), despite significant precedent supplied by the Iroquois Federation, Quakers and even the Magna Carta. The Cherokee could easily have been assimilated, and the Confederacy efficiently and effectively blockaded, and if only a portion of military waste (undeniably waste) had been applied instead to education, including adult education, certainly a large extent of problems addressed by compulsion would have been greatly ameliorated. But even in the “New World” it was deemed important for people to know important parameters of their “place”.
For Mediterranean people of the Italian peninsula, wine’s been an integral part of culture for millenia. After conquering most of Europe (the Western part, anyway), they found themselves looking down on local people, and local brews. Similarly, when Europeans came to the Americas, they despised locals and, Thanksgiving stories notwithstanding, failed to seek their advice, to learn from them and adopt some of their well acclimated ways – as would have been advisable. This at least helped keep population numbers down, but hardly facilitated cultural advancement. Most people are more concerned with being part of something, and showing it, than about making life easier by assimilating anything initially strange. Cultural distinctions include vast variation on relaxation formats, with partaking in convivial indulgences (eating sweets, smoking, drinking, taking mild stimulants) generally focused on usage furthering social bonding, almost as much as on getting a buzz.
Through the Dark Ages and Reformation, supporters of Rome and “universal” leadership were at odds with supporters of self-sufficiency - often self-sufficient Celtic people of strong local tradition and community (we must, to some extent, subsume ourselves into larger groups; one can’t go it totally alone… but neither can any hierarchy successfully be all-inclusive). The differences the northern and southern European peoples extended to alcohol preference, and even now are reflected in consumption throughout most of the richest society the world has ever known. Drink preference has long been used to gauge status, position and authority, but it hasn’t been for very long, in the USA, that quality booze has held extensive social eminence.
Long ago, people drank what those they lived amongst did, almost without exception. Choice is a modern phenomenon, enabled by the melding of different cultures with integration and increased proximity. These are certainly generalizations, but people of Mediterranean background drink more wine, those from the north and west of Europe prefer beer, and wine drinkers tend to have a healthier lifestyle profile than do beer drinkers. Certain drinks remain symbols of national identity: vodka for Russians (generalizations can be quite correct), Guinness for the Irish, tequila for Mexicans, whisky for Scots, ouzo for Greeks… to choose, serve - or indeed refuse - one’s national beverage can be a powerful expression of one’s loyalties and cultural identification.
Subcultural membership or the wish to belong to a certain social circle are certainly important to drinking choices, but lifestyle necessities are involved too. Malt-liquor has become the alcohol of choice of the homeless and unemployed, replacing fortified wines and more dangerous concoctions, while distilled beverages are preferred by many of the more materially successful. In Poland, a beverage preference for wine indicates status consciousness and concern, while in France, wine-drinking is commonplace and confers no special status, so the young elite are turning to (often imported) beers.

Hops were widely used in Germany by at least the 11th century, replacing mead. In the 15th century, they were introduced to Britain from Holland and Flanders (Belgium). Brewing, then, was done only in winter; ice was used to keep it cool during the summer months (it was called lager, from German lager, store-room or store-house, and lagern, “to store”). The English had long had ale (yeast, water and malt; up to 6.5% alcohol), but beer, by adding hops, keeps better and longer – hops having a preservative quality. So beer almost completely replaced the old English sweet ale; soon almost half of ships’ cargoes exported across the North and the Baltic Seas were barrels of beer. But until the middle of the 16th century, beer making was mostly a family operation, despite beer being an integral part of everyday diet. Ladies-in-waiting at the court of Henry VII (around 1500) were allowed a gallon of beer for breakfast alone (but court ladies back then also found themselves required to dance, in silence, for three hours during their Queen’s dinner), which may go some way to explaining some slow development in business acumen.
Major Christian churches all agreed that alcohol was gift from God to be used (moderately) for enhancing life and health. This view, held by many religious leaders, including Martin Luther and John Calvin, sometimes included belief that alcohol was necessary for health. This led to frequent drinking of a glass of whiskey (distilled beer) or other spirits, even before breakfast. Some school children took occasional sips of whiskey, morning and afternoon glasses not infrequently being considered indispensable. At the end of the 17th century, the weekly allowance for pupils of all ages at one school in England was two bottles a day.
As beer was a good deal safer and more palatable than drinking water from rivers, it was common even in the workplace; Benjamin Franklin lived in London from 1757-1774, and noted that employees of a London printing house had a pint of beer before breakfast, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint at six o’clock and another at work’s end.
The Plymouth Rock “Pilgrims” brought more beer along on the Mayflower than they did water; they’d have gone on further south if they’d had even more of it. What they brought was the most popular brew in England then - a dark, hearty drink, about 6% alcohol, made with barley malt and flavored with hops (like porter or stout). Another ship taking Puritans to Boston in 1630 carried three times as much beer as water, and 10,000 gallons of wine. Settlers brought distilled spirits of their own, too. Once landed they made applejack, mead, perry (from pears), and peach brandy. In 1662, John Winthrop, Jr., governor of Connecticut and son of Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts, brewed palatable beer from corn.
Brandy, grain whiskeys and other distilled drinks were popular. Gin, like beer, had deep roots in English culture, but in America was disparaged as a drink of alcoholics, until Prohibition. Hard cider quickly came to rival beer; by 1700, many Anglos in apple-bearing areas were distilling it, while in Virginia and Georgia they made peach brandies. Taverns served according to availability, and aspirations of owners. “New World” Colonial drinking habits, where most folk were British, varied but little. Rum quickly became the most popular distilled liquor (a popular punch had rinds and juice of expensively imported lemons, limes, and oranges, with rum and sugar). Lime punch was popular, served warm and sold by the bowl. Wine was rarely available outside of cities, and only for the more affluent. Homemade peach, apple or cherry brandy, and jugs of cider, increased in popularity during the Revolution, when imports stopped.
Beer came to America with Christopher Columbus, who, on his last voyage (1502), found a local brew he described as “of maize, resembling English beer” (perhaps this was pulque). Most early “settlers” wanted beer, but didn’t learn native ways to make it; lack of a quality, affordable product turned them to rum, then whiskey. As colonial beers simply weren’t as good as those brewed in England, Holland, Belgium or Germany, traditional allegiance to beer (and the tastes of the Old World) decreased. In the early 1700s, rum was the most popular colonial beverage, but by 1790, beer was by far the favorite form of alcohol in the US. Informed estimates put average consumption of absolute alcohol (by Americans over 15 years old, in the 1790s) at just under six gallons each year, representing 34 gallons of beer and cider, 5 gallons of distilled liquors, and under a gallon of wine. As many people didn’t drink, the level of consumption for actual drinkers was much higher. Alcohol consumption then declined some, and between 1800 and 1820 beer and spirits were consumed about equally. Liquor increased in popularity with the development of Kentucky bourbon, using corn instead of rye, and in the 1830s, the average adult American drank six gallons of bourbon a year. That’s average, and of just whiskey, of which many drank over half a pint per day!
Early in the 1800s, corn in America was abundant and cheap, but hard to transport for sale in costal population centers. Corn whiskey, easier to transport and sell (especially to natives very unlikely to buy regular corn), became superabundant, then super-cheap. People drank it at breakfast, “elevenses”, lunch (“dinner”), dinner (or “supper”) and well, you know, evenings… all the time, in fact, except at church. Almost no gatherings took place without passing of whiskey jugs, about which there aren’t precise figures, as much production went unrecorded. Today’s average, not 2.9 gallons per capita a year, includes under a gallon of corn whiskey.
In the 1870s beer regained its lead, with over 3 times as much as other forms of alcohol consumed; wine consumption was but a drop in the proverbial bucket. Alcohol consumption was still largely about germ control and getting a pain-numbing buzz, not about flavor. Due to general suspicion of the minorities who sought good flavor in alcohol, the concept of actually enjoying the taste of alcoholic beverages, at least in the USA, achieved popularity only quite slowly.

Both Anglican and Puritan churches used communion wine, and by the late 17th century, French immigrants were cultivating grapes in the Hudson River Valley, to make wine, juice and preserves. Early wine consumption in America was mostly by Catholics of Central or Southern European descent (generally from France, Italy, Germany and Spain), whose cultural traditions included social wine consumption with evening meals. But American grapes tended to not be sweet enough to ferment successfully.
Hernando Cortez, as Governor of Mexico in 1525, had grapes planted, but in 1595, late in his long reign, Philip II of Spain forbade new plantings, or even vineyard replacements, anywhere in Mexico - fearing colonial self-sufficiency; his edict remained in force 150 years, precluding any commercial wine industry in the Spanish colonies. Spanish missionaries in Mexico were producing wine in the early 17th century, though - as in Europe, vineyards under church auspices, mostly at missions, thrived. Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra planted vines in San Diego in 1769; colonization of California finally got going in the 1770s, and Serra established more vineyards; his ‘mission grapes’ led California wine production for a century. From the ‘mission grape,’ wine popularity began to grow some, especially after US acquisition of California through the Mexican-American War (1846 – 48), but it was still just a bit.
New York wines started in the 1820s, at New Utrecht, now part of the Brooklyn waterfront. Black-rot and powdery-mildew were troublesome, but in a vineyard in what’s now Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, hybrids were produced, and soon, at Croton Point, just a bit north of the City, the first American viticulture dynasty, the Underhills, began (their property is now a county park). Further north, at West Point, Frenchman Thomas Gimbrede transplanted all the native vines he could find and transplanted to his garden; his lack of success helped end any idea that wild grapes could be “tamed.” The first successful New York commercial winery, on the Hudson’s west bank at Washingtonville, was founded by Jean Jaques, in 1839. The oldest winery in continuous operation in the US, it survived Prohibition by making sacramental wine.
150 miles further west from the Hudson, highlands around a dozen long, narrow strips of deep and beautiful clear water known as the Finger Lakes hold a valley climate of warmer winters and cooler summers than in nearby regions. This favors grape growing, and the area has produced fine table and sparkling wines since just after the Civil War. So also has the westernmost region of New York, along the shores of Lake Erie. Grape planting in lakeshore areas stretching from New York through Pennsylvania and into Ohio began in the 1830s and 40s. Now that area provides the largest viticulture belt in the US outside California. Western New York’s ‘grape belt’, a narrow terrace between Lake Erie and the higher Allegheny Escarpment, has thin, gravelly, well-drained soil not fertile enough for general farming, but well-suited for grapes. Excellent drainage retards fungus and frost, the combined effect of the lake and escarpment makes for a long growing season, and the extent of rain, less than in surrounding hills and valleys, is also great for grapes. Wine grapes became the region’s virtual monoculture, despite the famous and popular Chautauqua Institution there, with its anti-alcohol (but pro art, drama, music, religion and youth activities) stance. Only towards the end of the 20th century, though, did these New York wines start to gain the wide-spread respect some of them enjoy today, and alcohol use gain some general acceptance in the USA as epicurean.
But the grape, linked in the hearts of the Protestant majority in the USA to the corruptions of the Catholic Church, for a century at least was less acceptable than alcohol from cider, corn and grain. Perhaps imported champagne helped to change that, after WWII. But during the 19th Century, homemade cider and applejack were often consumed more freely than water (even by children, due to it being more sanitary). Early prohibitionists mainly switched drinkers from grain to apple spirits, although later they began a campaign to cut down apple trees.

At the end of the 18th century, Royalist French settlers at Gallipolis, Ohio, defrauded by William Playfair of the Ohio Company, had expected to grow grapes for wine, but they also expected candles growing on trees, and a very easy life there. Like many misled colonists before them, they didn’t get it. 80% of the French settlers died within months. But a few, 87, it’s said, survived, as does their riverside town. The Ohio River saw repeated trials of viticulture, as other Frenchmen, plus Germans and Swiss, expected it to be a good area for wine grapes, due to southward-facing slopes and broad waters. But not until after 1830 were they vindicated. So the trees planted by John Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”, a de-sexed American Dionysus) – despite producing apples rarely tasty for eating – thrived, and produced untold quantities of alcohol.
Failed European revolutions in the 1840s brought lots of new immigrants, and Cincinnati, in about 1850, managed the first considerable wine production in the USA. Until after the Civil War, the Ohio River region was unabashedly called “The Rhineland of America”! But only with sparkling wines did it gain a real, national winner - proof that the US could produce tasty wine. In 1853, a good year, Cincinnati bottled 245,000 bottles of sparkling wine, and over 200,000 of table wine – still a good bit less than total consumption.
Then mildew and black rot attacked. There were extreme ups and downs in the lightness or heaviness. This was happening in Europe too: in the 1850s Madeira saw its vines, on which nearly everyone there depended, ravaged by powdery mildew. People abandoned their homes to emigrate, and the island’s wine trade never fully recovered. Portugal, Spain, France and Italy also suffered; in Italy, the appearance of the disease coincided with the first railroads; peasants blocked construction and tore up miles of rail!
Then things got worse. In 1863, native American grape cuttings taken to England brought along a species of root louse yet unknown outside North America. Native American grapes had resistance, in a thick, tough root bark, but European grapes died. After 20 years of struggle, detached shoots, including buds, were grafted to resistant species from the eastern US, and vineyards recovered – but without this long, laborious process, the European wine industry would’ve died.
900,000 Germans came to the U.S. between 1830 and 1860, bringing traditional drinking habits: preference for beer. German lager was made best from only water, hops and malt, allowed to age to a mellower flavor than that of previous American brews… German emigration reached Cincinnati in the 1820s, then St. Louis and the Missouri Valley in the 1830s, and soon the warm, heavy brew of the colonial period, which still had its partisans, was replaced by cooler, lighter beers. Increasingly restrictive German States inadvertently encouraged citizens to emigrate to the US - to escape repressive laws and seek personal freedoms no longer available in their homeland. Most were Lutheran beer drinkers, but some were Catholic, and preferred wine. Cincinnati and St. Louis both doubled in size from absorbing them.
An idealized, romantic description, published in 1829 by Gottfried Duden, who bought a farm along the Missouri River and told of the rich pastoral beauties of the land, brought more, and revolutionary outbreaks in 1830 and 1848 produced further large numbers of immigrants; but, in a replay of the Gallipolis disaster of half a century earlier, many found but wilderness quite unlike the smiling land of overflowing plenty they’d been led to expect. They didn’t fare as badly as the original settlers at Gallipolis, though, and St. Louis took on a German character. Many of the immigrants were educated, some of high professional standing - as recognized in a local nickname: ‘Lateinische Bauern’ (Latin Peasants, meaning, learned farmers… some could even read Latin!).
A group of “Free-thinkers” settled in the town of Hermann, chosen by the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia for its resemblance to the Rhine Valley of Germany (lots of hills and rivers). These “Hermannites” kept stores open on the Sabbath, highly valued literature, music, theater and public festivals, and replaced church with a theatrical society and music hall. But, instead of good farmland, they found stony country, unfit for the agriculture they had in mind. Viticulture seemed worth trying, though the history of failure with it in the US was a big caution. In 1848 they commenced winemaking; a German style Weinfest was held after harvest, with the town cannon fired in honor of Bacchus. Hermannites then produced a white wine from a southern grape, the Lenoir (in Texas used to make port). By 1861 they’d a large-scale winery; it grew to be the largest in the US outside California, and operated until Prohibition. In 1965 it reopened – still the westernmost reach of winegrowing in America, excluding California and a bit of Spanish-American cultivation in the Southwest.

But beer remained most the popular alcoholic drink of native-born Americans, especially lager beer, which evolved in accordance with changing preferences. As Americans drank more and faster than Germans, a lighter, colder brew was desirable, so a new American type of beer came into being: the light-bodied, golden brew popular today. Alcohol content ran about 3.5 to 8.25%; the light flavor is found by some to compare well with German products. Wherever there were German-Americans, cheap beer became the favorite of wage earners - of all national origins.
About dead-center in the continent, St. Louis became the second-largest port in the country. Irish and German immigrants flooded in, in the 1840s; the population grew from under 20,000 in 1840, to 77,860 in 1850, and over 160,000 by 1860. Later, Italian immigrants began to arrive; they helped expand wine-making, but beer remained the most popular beverage, especially during the time St. Louis was a vibrant, throbbing metropolis, production in its dirty factories booming. Immigration from southern and eastern Europe increased dramatically in the early 20th century, and St. Louis developed a lively immigrant gang culture, leading to much bootlegging activity and gang violence. Germans continued to arrive, as well as Poles and a variety of others.
High distribution costs made family-oriented local brewing the rule: Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, Schmidts, Coors, Schlitz and most of modern America’s popular beers are legacies from German-American brewers, with commercial success starting about 1860. In 1865, Adolphus Busch joined in the brewing business with father-in-law Eberhard Anheuser; in 1873 he developed a way to pasteurize beer so it could withstand temperature fluctuations. Able to distribute on a nationwide basis, he designed a light beer with St. Louis restaurateur Carl Conrad, in the belief that consumers would prefer it to dark brews still prevalent. By 1901 Anheuser-Busch had surpassed its main rival, Pabst, and was the US’s largest brewery, selling over a million barrels of beer a year, and making one of the world’s first commercial standards.
Until globalization changed everything, the world’s largest brewery had long been Anheuser-Busch, in St. Louis, MO. As beer drinkers began to arrive in the 1840 is numbers enough to eclipse the influence of the original French inhabitants, St. Louis started on a century of significant importance, becoming, for a while, a place to really be someone - a place, even, of commercial and cultural vibrancy and successfully to rival Chicago. It outshined anything in the “Reconstruction” South, and even anything in Pennsylvania and Ohio, when they, too, had a good deal of commercial, and cultural, vibrancy. St. Louis was the gateway to the West, Queen of the continent’s greatest river, and a place where real ambitions might possibly be fulfilled. Now, without any of that glamour, it still has its huge brewery, and still puts out America’s most popular beer. Perhaps not a great beer, but a beer imitated elsewhere, exported to elsewhere, and recognized, if not respected, worldwide. Anheuser-Busch remains an important fixture of St Louis’ economy.

Early Puritan immigrants drank, but eventually some descendents, and others, began discouraging intoxication, then even banning alcohol consumption of any kind – as at Chautauqua. Some of these Prohibitionists cast suspicion on immigrant groups that retained Old World customs and didn’t efficiently, or entirely, assimilate into established society; wine consumption became a focus for these discriminatory points of view. Too often, alcoholism was often seen as a problem of ethnic groups that enjoyed wine, despite distilled spirits being more real sources of problematic inebriation. Italians and Jewish immigrants liked alcohol, but discouraged intemperance; with fewer total abstainers than most other communities, their rates of alcoholism were among the country’s lowest – but prejudice failed to note this, when xenophobia addressed ‘moral’ issues. And by the time integration of cosmopolitan sophistication had begun making inroads throughout America, repressive forces nipped the buds of tasteful indulgence clean off.
In 1851, Maine prohibited sale or manufacture of liquor; by 1855, 13 of 31 United States had followed suit. Kansas became entirely ‘dry’ in 1880; Iowa, Georgia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia followed. But as Prohibitionist fervor gained momentum, the US wine industry first boomed: phylloxera root louse devastated French vineyards between 1860 and 1880, and California production increased to fill the void. Huge vineyards were planted – for wine to export, with little impact on US wine consumption.
In the mid-1880s, European wines began to rebound, causing a glut of US wine. Then Phylloxera struck Southern California’s vineyards, while prohibitionist attitudes and rising real estate values in the Los Angeles Basin also cut further into viticulture. By 1903, over a third of the nation lived under prohibitory law. About half did by 1913, when the Webb-Kenyon Act banned shipment of liquor from ‘wet’ to ‘dry’ states. Congress passed the 18th Amendment in 1917, banning commercial production and sale of alcohol (much to the great mirth of many non-English-speaking Europeans, Canadians and Latin Americans). The 1920 Volstead Act closed loopholes in alcohol laws: alcohol could be consumed for religious purposes or prescribed by physicians, and heads of households were allowed to produce 200 gallons of wine a year for personal use - largely a concession to the newly significant Italian-American electorate. Product of efforts by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and various missionary societies, Prohibition was primarily a religious undertaking, to limit pleasures in the here-and-now and so encourage hope for them in the afterlife… wine for religious services was something else. So also were some alcoholic extracts used for cooking, or as medicine.
As the First World War had produced a postwar conservatism supportive of alcohol temperance - and keeping laborers away from prostitutes, gambling, corrupt politicians and other dangerous elements, including recent immigrants, temperance advocacy gained influence. Besides, German immigrants ran most US breweries and controlled most saloons, and Germans had been on the other side in the war. The Ku Klux Klan additionally targeted Jewish and Catholic immigrants, purportedly in response to their ritual (and social) consumption of alcohol. Temperance became associated with Protestant, rural, and conservative voters, while anti-temperance became suspect, like liberalism under George W. Bush. But alcohol consumption persisted.
Prohibition took a toll on public health in many ways, the most visible of which was through tainted drink – including blindness, and sometimes death, from methanol consumption. During the prohibition era, some 50,000 US citizens became paralyzed from drinking adulterated Jamaican Ginger Extract.
Spirits of choice during Prohibition depended on social class; the rich drank smuggled whiskey from Canada - by Repeal, late in 1933, Canada’s Seagram’s had become the world’s largest producer of alcohol; 5 million gallons of professionally distilled Scotch and brandy were coming into the USA from Canada per year.
‘Near-beer’ (less than a half percent alcohol) was still legal, and breweries continued to produce it – by making normal (4%) beer first, then taking alcohol out. Both real beer and alcohol were diverted (smuggled) out, and often the alcohol was put back into the ‘near-beer’. Then industrial alcohol began to be added, and production shot from 28 million gallons to 180 million.
But many turned to moonshine. The poorest drank ginger extract (“Jake”), a patent medicine, widely available before the 18th Amendment. 70-80% ethanol, it bypassed Prohibition laws by being made too bitter for most people to drink; the adulterant used to make it just barely tolerable (‘palatable’) was toxic. Those who drank it and didn’t die were incapacitated, through damage to nerve cells in the spinal cord resulting in paralysis - despite the extract having passed US Treasury Department tests. A few drops of it were to be added to water to treat respiratory infections, indigestion, and irregular menses. The Federal Bureau of Prohibition demanded the percent of ginger solids included be raised, to make it too bitter to drink for other than medicinal purposes, but as it remained cheaper than other still available forms of alcohol, it was still purchased mostly for the alcohol content. Its producers were eventually given fines and probation. In 1932, one began a 2-year prison term, but there was never any compensation for victims.
Despite Prohibition, American wine consumption increased, and with beer and distilled spirits illegal to produce or sell, people turned to red wine. Regions like Lodi, Colorado responded to a massive increase in demand for grapes – to be used for home winemaking. Still, by Repeal (after 13 years), the wine industry was in ruins. With epicurean delights like cognac and liqueurs unavailable, and most of what was affordable not all that palatable, the US began indulging in profligate fashions: excessive make-up, cheap magazines, riotous music, hackneyed radio shows, theatrical extravaganzas, slavish devotion to sports, fervent religious revivalism and other lavish fantasies – eventually leading up to the still greatly (and duly) admired, but certainly quite hallucinatory, “Wizard of Oz” (1939). This most famous and best-loved fantasy film ever, a revised, updated version of a popular children’s book, featured character clashes, emotional attractions and feudalistic power-plays. Not half a century past its imagining, Oz morphed from an allegory about currency “backing” (in monetary policy interpretations about a fraudulent world of greenback paper money that only pretends to have value, the wicked witches represent east and west coast bankers, the Tin Woodsman the industrial proletariat without the heart to act in solidarity with farmers, while the dog Toto and the Cowardly Lion represent prohibitionist teetotalers, as well as Wall Street investors) into a psychedelic myth. With emotional and psychological longings; juxtaposed, antagonistic personalities; songs planting emotional connections integral to the script, characters appearing in different guises; and an open heart as more powerful than wicked thoughts, and through the discontinuities in cultural traditions brought to what became the United States, Oz was able to became a cultural tradition itself. Half a dozen film versions, a stage show and a radio series preceded the Judy Garland 1939 one; but it wasn’t until the straight-laced 1950s, when it was put regularly in TV, that it became well-received (and only much later that even newer versions were made).

Before 1920, there were over 2,500 commercial wineries in the United States; less than 100 survived to 1933 (mostly by obtaining permits to make wines used for medicinal, sacramental and non-beverage additive purposes). Production dropped 94% from 1919 to 1925. The explosive demand for fresh grapes, though, and a shortage of refrigerated railroad cars with which to ship them, caused prices to skyrocket. Growers replanted with table or juice grape varieties that shipped better, replacing fine wine varieties. Planted acreage almost doubled from 1919 to 1926; vineyard land prices climbed from $200 an acre in 1918 to $2,500 an acre in 1923. But prosperity for growers lasted barely five years: in 1925, railroads had enough cars, and too much fruit was shipped. It rotted on the Eastern docks. In 1926, vineyard land fell to $250 per acre, a constant surplus of California grapes followed until 1971 (thus the low-paid Mexican workers led by Cesar Chavez into strikes and boycott maneuvers, in the late 1960s).
One type of wine sold particularly well following Repeal - fortified dessert wines. Taxed at the lower rate of wine (as opposed to distilled spirits), but containing 20% alcohol, they were the cheapest intoxicant available, and became popular with derelict winos, contributing to the low esteem in which wine often remained held. Before 1920, table wines accounted for 3 of every 4 gallons shipped; after 1933 (Prohibition was repealed on Dec 5, but 3.2 beer had been legally available since late March), fortified wines – the better buy in terms of alcoholic content - composed 3 of every 4 gallons shipped! It wasn’t until 1968 that table wines sales finally overtook sales of the less tasty fortified wines, and regained status as the most popular wine category.
California had 271 bonded wineries in 1960, down from 713 before Prohibition; not until 1986 did that many again operate, though California regularly produced about 90% of US wines.
There wasn’t much post-repeal increase in consumption; it rose slowly, from approximately one gallon of absolute alcohol per capita in 1934 to roughly 1.5 gallons in 1941. It then climbed to pre-Volstead levels of about two gallons per capita (as from 1916 to 1919) in the mid-1940s. Preferences since Repeal shifted back to distilled spirits. Beer had begun regaining its dominant popularity, lost for about 40 years, between 1870 and ’80, but lost it for another 40.
In the early 20th century, beer was drunk with almost the fervor of 100 years previous. Then, with Prohibition, total consumption was down again, beer by about half, and spirits more so, but there were of course but murky records (anecdotal evidence suggests illegal consumption was mostly of distilled spirits). After 1972, beer consumption in terms of absolute alcohol, relative to that of spirits, again increased. For half of the 19th century, in terms of absolute alcohol, spirits exceeded beer - and in the 1850s exceeded beer consumption even just in liquid quantity! Generally, wine accounted for about a tenth the amount of either, until after WWII, when it eventually grew to about one third in terms of actual alcohol consumed.
Every US state has power to make its own laws regarding wine sales, so making and distributing commercial wine involves extensive marketing difficulties, especially for smaller wineries. Taste for non-fortified wines began to develop in the 1960s; new wine drinkers were young, traveled and affluent. As the Baby-Boom generation came of age, wine drinking increased, but the majority bought only simple, sweet wines. During the 1980s, more US drinkers switched away from hard liquor to beer and wine, and wine became a mark of sophistication.
Wine is most often consumed moderately and regularly with meals. While other alcoholic beverages are also used with eating, or sometimes just after, they’re mostly for social gatherings or simply intoxication (sometimes called relaxation). Beer and spirits are mainly consumed apart from meals. For many, Wine is seen as having nutritional value and is used as a normal beverage with meals; beer is, to a lesser extent, a mealtime beverage but, more importantly, its use is connected with daily social contacts and conviviality outside the home.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages increased rapidly during the 1950s and early to mid-‘60s, in part due to prosperity and associated relaxed social standards, but it began to level off in the mid-1970s. In the 1980s, the major ethnic groups of the US consumed alcohol at comparable levels, but as a ‘drying’ trend, with about a 15% consumption reduction, occurred in the ‘90s, frequent heavy drinking fell among white men and women - but not among African Americans and Hispanics.
A survey of alcohol consumer behaviors in the US showed that while beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, what consumers name as their favorite category of alcoholic beverage is different from actual consumption, and consumers' favorite category varies significantly across different demographic groups. 39% of alcohol consumers name beer as their favorite category, followed by spirits at 31%, wine at 25%, flavored malt beverages at 4%, and alcoholic cider at 1%. This compares to beer/cider/flavored malt beverages capturing 53% of servings of alcohol in the US in 2011, spirits capturing 31% and wine 16% on an equivalent - servings basis.
Alcohol use is increasing significantly among Asian Americans, who constitute one of the fastest growing U.S. minority populations. Among adolescent minorities studied nationwide, African Americans show the lowest prevalence of lifetime, annual, monthly, daily, and heavy drinking, as well as the lowest frequency of being drunk. Hispanic adolescents have the highest annual prevalence of heavy drinking, followed by Whites. Hispanics are about twice as likely as Whites to die from cirrhosis, despite a lower prevalence of drinking and heavy drinking, perhaps due to a tendency to consume alcohol in higher quantities per drinking occasion than do Whites. Caucasians favor beer over other categories by a wider margin, with 35% naming beer as their favorite, followed by spirits (30%), wine (26%), and flavored malt beverages (4%). Hispanics like beer and spirits about equally, 34% and 33% respectively, while 27% name wine and 5% name flavored malt beverages. African-Americans also like beer and spirits equally, 35% for each, with 20% naming wine and 7% naming flavored malt beverages. Among women, wine is number one, with 36% calling it their favorite, followed closely by spirits with 33%. Among all age and ethnic groups, men are more likely to drink than are women, and to consume large quantities in a single sitting.
In many places, grape wine, rice wine, tequila, gin, ouzo or other forms of alcohol are much more popular than anywhere in the USA, in part because they are local products, but in part, too, because of xenophobia, racism and cultural prejudice: It can be dangerous to stand out as different. The rich can indulge eclectic tastes, but certainly not the working class or poor, for whom taste is hardly the point, anyway. And the bigotry of intolerant racial prejudice found applying pejorative connotations to cultural proclivities useful for delineating who was who, and was what in relation to whom.
The US might still become more debonair, cosmopolitan, suave and epicurean, with less violent loathing expressed, but development of culture takes time. It might, even, one day become the number one wine consuming nation. But 85% of its wine consumption remains by less than 8% of its total population. Its beers, after the decline of small breweries in New York, Wisconsin and Texas, are held in little regard by sophisticated connoisseurs. Beer brings in huge amounts of tax, in addition to profits for breweries and distributors; the reliable standards Americans clearly prefer are destined to remain widely available. And, in all likelihood, preferred over anything Americans find exotic, or, especially, challenging.

2 Comments:

Blogger nationof gandhis said...

with all the grape agriculture in this country, try to buy organic grape juice, frozen or otherwise. it's a pity

8:39 PM  
Blogger nationof gandhis said...

http://hamsnetwork.org/mm/ marijuana when legalized can replace alcohol as an intoxicant. Timeline http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000143

8:48 PM  

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