Can you believe we’ve been doing Nyogtha for two years now? Generally when I write anything for over two years, I get royally sick of it, ala Retrograding, but so far this isn’t the case here.
This week I thought I’d focus a bit on food folklore. Even thought I don’t drink, I realize most people do. More importantly, I realize that far more of Western Culture is based on the concept of getting shitfaced than the average person realizes. I though I’d spend this week taking a look at the folklore of ales, beers, wines, and assorted other liquors to show how they have influenced Western Culture.
Although we now have a worldwide concept of Oktoberfest as a drinking festival that goes on for a fortnight in Munich, the origins of this festival are quite different from the, “Let’s drink booze and eat bratwursts.” tradition it has become.
Oktoberfest began in 1810 and was in fact originated as a wedding party! Max Josef, the king of Bavaria threw a lavish bash to celebrate the marriage between his son, Prince Ludwig, and the princess of Saxe-Hildenburghausen, Therese. The party was not focused on booze, but was actually a large horse racing event that forty thousand people attended. People celebrated the wedding, the horses, and gave thanks to their God for such a bountiful harvest. This would-be one time event became so popular that it the King declared it a yearly event for his people. In fact, contrary to the modern version of the festival, there was NO BEER at all at the first Oktoberfest. It was not legal at the time and wouldn’t be until 1880, seventy years later.
Of course once beer was available for purchase in Bavaria, it took off. The next year, 1881, someone (whose name is lost to history) began selling brats at Oktoberfest, and the rest is history. Both proved to be so popular with the attendees, that they became forever linked with the event, surpassing the original themes of horse racing and marriage. In fact the dance halls for wedding receptions evolved into what we now know as…beer halls.
Hard to believe a simple combination of yeast, hops, and barley could change the meaning of a large annual event, eh?
Various terms of jargon and slang have their origins in tavernspeak.
Although few people use it in modern times, the term “wet your whistle,” originates back to British Pubs. In olden days, pubs would have whistles embedded in the rim of the ceramic mugs that would be served to patrons. When a customer wanted a refill, all they had to do was use the whistle in their mug and the barkeep would refill it. It’s unknown why this practice stopped, although two obvious hypothesis involve poor hygienic conditions of the time, and/or the sheer annoyance of allow a building full of drunkards to have whistles.
Another term that spawned from the Western world’s love of hooch is actually, “honeymoon.” Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Indeed, honeymoon was not originally intended to be the time when a newly married couple goes off to have a vacation filled with sex and adventure. It was still marriage related however.
Way back when, most weddings were performed at the beginning of a lunar cycle. Honeymoon referred to that first month of the marriage where both groom and bride would drink honey mead. This first month of the wedding was, “the honeymonth” and the mead was drank because at the time, mead was believed to promote fertility in the woman and give the man a better chance at producing a boy instead of a girl. Eventually honeymonth became “honey mone” about four hundred and fifty years ago. It was first used in the English language by writer Richard Huloet in 1552. The creator of the dictionary, Samuel Johnson eventually gave us the spelling and definition we now today, and the rest is history.
A very common term we all use even today has an obvious origin from the liquor lexicon. It’s, “groggy.” Grog is a form of watered down rum. Back in 1740, the British Navy has a man by the name of Admiral Vernon. Vernon felt that both the naval officers and the rank and file were getting too inebriated and thus ordered Rum, the drink of choice for seafarers to be watered down to keep his men as sober as long as possible. For some reason, the sailors began to refer to Vernon as, “Old Grog.” Eventually grog would also come to be applied to the drink of watered down rum itself, and from there, as it was harder to get drunk off of grog, you instead became, “groggy.” Now groggy refers to sleepy or tired, which is an understandable evolution of the word.
In 1721, Thomas Trotter wrote a poem about the origins of grog.
A mighty bowl on deck he drew.
And filled it to the brink;
Such drank the Burford’s gallant crew,
And such the gods shall drink,
The sacred robe which Vernon wore
Was drenched within the same;
And hence his virtues guard our shore,
And Grog derives its name
Finally, let’s take a look at the almost but not quite archaic phrase, “mind your P’s and Q’s.” Have you ever wondered what the P’s and Q’s are? In fact, they are “pints” and “quarts.” Minding your P’s and Q’s was a reference in English pubs to make sure you don’t get drunk and unruly.
American vs. English beers
Now I’m sure this topic will create both some “You rock” and “you suck” email. Before we cover this topic, realize again that I DO NOT DRINK, so none of this is opinion but facts based in chemistry, food science, and research.
The question at hand is simply, why do Americans drink their lager cold, and the English drink it warm? There’s a simple answer and a more complex answer. The simple answer is that American brewing is patterned after the cheaper and lower quality lagering of the Germans. The complex answer…well, read on.
If you’re not an astute world traveler, you may not know that the Americans serve their beer cold, while the English tend to serve there between 50-60 degrees F. There are several reasons for this, but they all come back to brewing practices. As I said before, Americans primarily brew beer in a German fashion. They lager beers that are slowly bottom brewed in cold temperatures and thus need to be served that way to preserve what little flavour they have. No, that’s not an insult. The American style of brewing beer really is fashioned after the light pilsner style beer that was first widely produced in cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis.
English beers need to be served warm because, as shocking as this may be to everyone reading this, British beer is brewed not to get drunk as cheaply and quickly as possible, but it’s actually brewed for flavour. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the nation that practices alcoholism as a competitive sport brews their alcohol for taste. American beers, on the average actually have a higher alcohol content in them, but in terms of flavour (and yes, flavour is actually something you can measure like temperature or height), American beers have far less taste. And when you factor in the fact that the colder an alcoholic product is, the less taste it has, this is compounded even more with the American brewing style. British beers were quite simply, originally imbibed at higher temperatures to preserve maximum flavour.
Basically the Americans get loaded faster, while the British get more flavour. To best honest had you asked me before I started researching going off only stereotypes and being a non-drinker, I would have said the opposite in a heartbeat. See, Nyogtha educates even ME!
And to end this debate, I’ll confirm a rumour I’ve heard people debate upon. YES, American Guinness is brewed differently than true UK Guinness. Guinness original/Extra Stout, which is as close as modern Guinness in the Western world comes to the original recipe, has an ABV (alcohol per volume) percentage of 6% in America, but 4.25% in Ireland and England. If you want the real thing of Guinness, you have to get Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. A limited amount is sold in Ireland, but it’s primarily sold in China, the Carribean and West Africa.
That my friends, is your food & beverage folklore for this week.
It’s been a very warm summer here in Minnecrapolis, so I’ve been trying not to use the oven much. My goal this week was to make something that doesn’t involved heating up your home too badly. I could have done a salad, but I felt that was a cop-out. Instead, chose something simple that most people like: Good ol’ Chocolate pudding. This is not the Jell-O instant crap (with all due respect to Bill Cosby). It’s simple to make, takes very little time, and it’s quite delicious.
2 Cups plus 2 tablespoons Milk
3/4th cup sugar
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped up
3 large egg yolks (ONLY THE YOLKS!)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces semi-sweetened chocolate, turned into shavings
1 Cup Sweetened Whipped cream (see below)
Alex’s Note: I haven’t used store bought whipping cream in almost decade since I watched an episode of Emeril Live and he showed how quick and easy it is to make it. It’s better for you and tastes so superior, I thought I’d give it to you as a bonus recipe here instead of forcing you to use…ugh, Cool Whip.
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sugar
1. Combine all the ingredients into a medium size mixing bowl. Take an electric mixed and whip until soft peaks form within the mixture.
Now back to the pudding.
1. Get a medium-size non-reactive saucepan. A non-reactive saucepan is simply one made of ceramics, stainless steel or glass. Take the 2 cups of milk and the sugar and mix them together over medium high heat. Then bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Now reduce the heat down to medium (I know, lots of temp changes), and add the chopped up Milk chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. Take the egg yolks, the cornstarch and the 2 remaining tablespoons of milk and using a whisk, combine them all in a mixing bowl until smooth. Slowly add in the chocolate mixture while whisking. Pour the newly combined mixture back into the sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken. This will take about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and butter. Stir until the butter has completely melted.
3. Pour the mixture into a class bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap down over the surface to prevent skin. Let cool completely. Place in fridge and let it sit for 4 hours. Remove the plastic wrap and beat with a whisk until smooth.
4. Serve with optional whipped cream and chocolate shavings after spooning pudding into dessert bowls.
In Wrestling, Eric S. sat through modern ECW while I just pop in a tape of New Jack killing himself. Also, Jeff Hardy returns to the WWF. Cheer up MM! At least Hardy will get titles shots now and be a multi time tag champ again!
I don’t watch TV
Moodspins hasn’t been updated since May.
In Comics, Burnside learns even Simon Furman hates Hot Rod. Optimus > Rodimus baby!
Well, no monsters this week, but there was enough of those in my video game preview, so if you’re hankering for something spooky, go read that instead. See you next week!