Hard as I try to persuade him, The Archaeologist will not start his own blog. Until that happy day when all the emojis of the world will line up and sing ‘The Sun has got his hat on’ we will make do with a guest post. I give you, the Archaeologist..
The Archaeologist Writes – Virtues and Vices
My brother, in his introduction to the guest post he was kind enough to publish (here), gave an example of the way I thought, one topic running off another. And reading his piece on vices, led me to think about health drinks, and how the first were developed.
The first began with a dreadful medical problem, scurvy.
Scurvy is a terrible condition caused by lack of vitamin C, it leads to open sores, teeth falling out, bone loss and death. It particularly affected sailors as the methods available for food preservation destroyed vitamin C. The problem was finally solved by Captain Cook, who discovered the first preserved food that could treat it (and incidentally used class prejudice to make it work – but that’s another story)
A few years later, the doctor on board H.M.S. Pandora, the ship that went to hunt for the Bounty mutineers, discovered that lemon or lime juice was the most effective preventative. Orders were then made that British sailors would be issued with a ration of lime juice to keep them healthy, first in the navy, then on merchantmen. American sailors laughed at the sailors who were made to drink lime juice, calling them ‘limeys’ (as a result few foreign sailors wanted to serve on American ships, they knew that they were likely to die on long voyages).
Lime juice is very tart, and to make it more palatable British sailors mixed it with the other drink they were issued, diluted rum (called grog after a waterproof cloth – but that’s another story), then added a little sugar. And so the first cocktail – a daiquiri had been invented.
If you no longer needed to fear scurvy on long voyages, you were still likely to suffer from sea sickness and indigestion caused by the monotonous diet. A preparation of gentian was known to treat these problems, but it was very bitter, hence its nickname ‘Bitters’. Naval personnel mixed it with gin to make it drinkable. The red colour of the bitters coloured the gin, Pink Gin had been invented.
Now it was possible to sail safely to all corners of the globe, but to live there the problems of disease had to be overcome. Quinine had been known for centuries, as a brilliant treatment for malaria and other fevers, so residents in tropical climates were advised to take a daily dose of the stuff. A tincture was dissolved in water to make a drink, but this ‘Tonic Water’ was still horribly bitter. This too was mixed with gin to make it palatable, and the third of the great health drinks – Gin and Tonic was invented.
And so, protected by the health giving properties of Daiquiris, Pink Gin and Gin and Tonic the British were able to rule half the world. Naturally of course, other people, not recognising the value of these drinks began to promote nonalcoholic beverages as alternatives. The results were disastrous, it was problems with the supply of tea that led to the death of Gordon at Khartoum, and hence the war in the Sudan, and incidentally to one of the great catch phrases of British TV during the 1970’s – but that, as I have said before, is another story.