A Beach Read: “History of the World in 6 Glasses”

With the exception of today, those of us in Southern California have had the pleasure of a sneak peak of a gorgeous summer. In the last couple of days many have congregated along San Diego’s breathtaking beaches. I was one of the many who threw down their beach towel with book in hand. Although I knew it was a bad idea, I attempted to go in the chilly water. After the frigid water reached my feet, I ran back to my towel and went back to finish last summer’s read. I have to admit, I have a horrible habit of starting a book and then getting involved with work and my wine studies and putting my book aside.
 
Last summer, I read all but one chapter of “A History of the World in 6 Glasses” by Tom Standage. Just before I finished the last chapter, a big wine exam approached and I was forced to set it aside. (Don’t worry I passed that exam!) I know many think a summer read should be a romance novel and this book is a romance novel of sorts. It is the romance story of six crucial beverages of the world and the impact they have had on history.
 
Standage follows these six beverages including beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola and their role in human history. I know some history books are dull and are often read to put one’s self to sleep but this book is the opposite . Standage does an exceptional job of giving the reader a history lesson without reading like an encyclopedia. Each chapter begins with a historical quote like “Fermentation and civilization are inseparable, John Ciardi, American poet (1916-86).” I have to admit that my favorite chapters were about wine, beer and coffee. 

After reading the book, I love to state the fact those that many of those that built the Great Pyramids in Egypt were paid in beer. Wow, how awesome is that? I should explain that the first steps toward making bread are the same steps for making beer and that is why they were paid in beer. I do love my micro-brews but I don’t know if I would want to be paid with them!

When discussing current cult wines, I will add that the concept of a cult wine goes back as far back as the Romans with Falernian wine grown in Campania. Julius Caesar was said to have consumed the most famous Falernian vintage of 121 BC in the first century BC. I can’t imagine that the wine was very tasty by the time Caesar actually drank it, but it was known as the wine of the gods, so of course he had to drink it.

I often take my wine studies to a coffee shop and Tom Standage reminded me that so much crucial history all began at a coffee house.  It is where the French Revolution had it’s start. To be specific it “was at the Cafe de Foy, on the afternoon of July 12, 1789, that a young lawyer named Camille Desmoulins set the French Revolution in motion (Standage, 170).” 

I have unveiled the secret origins for much of my random trivia. I hope you do my secret well and pick up the book and give it a read while drinking either a glass of wine, beer, a spirit of some kind, a cup of coffee or tea or even a Coca-Cola. Cheers to a good summer read!

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