Monday, July 24, 2006

The other ethanol...

As we rush to distill corn into alcohol we are following the example of sturdy Americans who found their own nationalistic pride swell with the introduction of rum - the American gin.
This may seem a strange claim for a nation with as strong a history of militant temperance and Prohibition as ours, yet there's more than a little truth to it. Rum was invented in the Americas -- probably, though not certainly, in Barbados -- and quickly became an important part of the diet in the American colonies, where consumption of alcoholic beverages was very high. Rum and slavery were intertwined, both in the slave trade and on plantations where rum was made. "Demon Rum" became a shibboleth of the temperance movement, and rum itself became one of the most widely consumed alcoholic drinks once Prohibition forced drinkers into speakeasies or onto ships bound for Cuba. During World War II, rum and Coca-Cola "became the de facto national drink of many of the troops," and now the mojito is one of the most popular drinks among the fashionable young people who are bringing new life into the country's old cities.

I have often been puzzled by those who deify the Founding Fathers as saints when both the times and the people involved were very much like us - truly fallible. While some were abstemious Puritans, most enjoyed gambling (below), drinking, and um, wenching.
In other colonies, English attitudes towards gambling and recreation prevailed. These settlers brought with them the view that gambling was a harmless diversion. In these colonies, gambling was a popular and accepted activity. Legal gambling tended to be those types that were considered proper gentlemen's diversions. For example, it took a long time for cock-fighting to become legal because it was not considered a suitable game for gentlemen.
Sounds familiar.

I do not raise this point to diminish our progenitors, but to suggest that, like them, we are capable of far more.

No comments: