Monday, September 27, 2010

Loss of Tradition

America has a puritanical instinct which at times has enjoyed periods of success, none more powerful then the anti-alcohol movement resulting in Prohibition. Because of the ban on alcohol the tradition of home-brewing was severed and many of the ties to our historic diet and agricultural traditions were lost. Where we once were a people who understood how food ended up on our plates, we now see agriculture as a specialists' occupation similar to the way we see technology: We look to "certain people" to provide us with computers and we look to "certain people" to provide us food. (Let that sink in.)
Same is true with drink. We once not only understood how our glasses were full, we participated and shaped fruit cultivation by bringing mills our home-grown fruit. Apples were among the only fruit hardy enough to grow in the populated Northeast, thus cider became the main American beverage for 300 years prior to Prohibition. Pride-in-ownership and taste preferences inspired hundreds of thousands of Americans to grow apples on their property, and eventually tens of thousand of apple cultivars gave our country regional cider fame, like wine to France.
In so many ways we lost touch with our dietary and agricultural traditions during the 20th century. Ask most Americans and they think 'fermented' is a bad thing; they don't even realize beer and wine, which they like, undergoes fermentation in a process resulting in alcohol. After Prohibition, we let Budweiser and Miller Beer do the alcoholic beverage thinking for us. The traditions of the past are so severed that few of us are even interested in discovering what we ate and drank in the days before trucks, trains and refrigeration. With cider we are left to look toward France and England, who had not suffered a forcible ban on alcohol, so that we may imagine what our country would be like if it were not for Prohibition. Ironically, our Mother-Country, the country we rebelled against, has upheld the traditions of our past. England, with their "cideries" and "scrumpy" can help us get back on our feet in terms of cider production. Across the Atlantic, cider traditions have been continued and have evolved while we slumbered the duration on the 20th century. They have brought cider and cider-apple growing techniques to the 21st century and we now need to use their cider practices to bridge the divide from our dietary past.