Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Uncorking the Past

In my copious spare time, I have been reading an interesting book I picked up from a dealer at a science-fiction convention about two months ago. The citation is:

McGovern, Patrick E. Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages. (University of California Press 2009).

Professor McGovern is actually affiliated with an institution near me, namely, the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, but he has traveled widely in pursuit of information about the development, manufacture, and use of alcoholic beverages in prehistory. It is proving to be a fascinating read, not only because of the information about beer, wine, and crossover beverages that partake of characteristics of both, but because McGovern describes how he and his colleagues have used archaeological information to piece together portions of the prehistory of alcoholic drinks. I may write more about his discoveries after I finish, but in the meantime I recommend the book heartily.

I was also pleased that McGovern notes a detail I've been aware of for awhile--namely, that you don't have to be human to appreciate the pleasures of getting drunk. I learned this as a child from personal observation. We lived in a home that had a small grape arbor, and sometimes the grapes would fall before we could pick them, and would start to ferment on the ground. The butterflies and bees would sip at the decaying fruit and begin to fly in entertainingly crooked ways. It was then that I understood that homo sapiens is not alone in indulging in the fruit of the grape.

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