For some sleep-inducing airplane reading, I settled for my alumni magazine. Surprisingly, I stumbled on this gem, about Penn Museum archaeologist, Patrick McGovern and his study of alcohol’s role in ancient cultures. While I knew that King Midas liked the sauce, I didn’t know that people were drinking 9,000 years ago in what is now rural China and that Incas had their own special brew. And I had no idea that grains were pre-digested by spitting partially chewed food into a cauldron. Or better yet, that a bunch of academics and brew-geeks from Dogfish Head recently re-enacted the ritual:
It was a South American-style beer called chicha… …To transform its base of purple Peruvian corn into a mash amenable to yeast fermentation, the men had chewed every last kernal and spit the cuds into the brewing kettle.
Of course McGovern notes that alcohol kills off any harmful bacteria, but regardless, drinking that concoction is not the most enticing proposition. McGovern seems to believe that booze could pushed us toward agrarian society, with our distant ancestors pursuing cereal grains for beer rather than food, because the nutritional value of fermented grain was superior to that of unprocessed grain. Penn anthropology Professor Solomon Katz:
In biological terms, beer drinkers would have had a ’selective advantage’ in the form of improved health for themselves and ultimately for their offspring.
We’ve evolved to drink beer and it’s healthy. So drink up!