My husband and I were having lunch in our sunroom this afternoon when his fork dropped to the floor. He picked it up immediately and reached for his paper napkin, which I thought made sense because both the fork and the floor were clean and dry. But before wiping the fork, he dipped it into his glass of wine.
What are you doing!?! I asked in disbelief. Cleaning the fork, he replied. Germs, he explained, don’t survive in wine.
I’m not sure about the science behind this assurance, but I did find myself reflecting on the history of drinking alcohol instead of water.
Less than a century ago, a source of clean water was not available even in what today we consider our developed Western cities. Streets in London and New York, for instance, were littered with the manure of horses used to pull carriages. There was no garbage pick-up, and the rivers were badly polluted. So what water was available coming into houses was also badly polluted.
This was true even during my husband’s childhood where he grew up in a coal-mining village in Yorkshire. The only toilet facilities were a pit toilet outside, and a tub in the kitchen which was filled from water heated on the wood-burning stove and used by the women of the house when the men went to the pub. His grandfather made use of the public baths once a week.
Water was inevitably disease-ridden – rather the way we see it is in Haiti today or in parts of the undeveloped world. It was, indeed, healthier to drink alcohol than water.
Can’t say I long for the good old days. But there are those who still swear by the health benefits of alcohol.