In class last week we discussed a number of ways that food, and our consumption of it, is imbedded within an interflowing web of cultural, political, and ecological ideas. I believe this attached blog post regarding the history of coffee is a great example of how food can change the way we think and exchange ideas, inevitably allowing for intellectual and political revolution.
The linked blog post describes the emergence of coffee in Europe as "an alternative to the perpetual drunken haze." Because water was generally unsafe to drink, most 17th century Europeans began their day with beer, continued their day with beer, then ended their day with wine or gin. Such tendencies were hardly conducive to high productivity (or good liver health). With the introduction of coffeehouses, people began their day stimulated and refreshed, rather than relaxed and inebriated. Not only did coffeehouses diminish the drunken stupor of the European population, but they served as a place for individuals to discuss poetry, science, politics, philosophy, etc. One could argue that the European enlightenment was sparked by the introduction of the coffeehouse.
Another thing I find remarkable about coffee is that its influence has hardly diminished in the centuries since the first coffeehouses. To this day, coffee is the universal means of getting people out of bed in the morning and keeping our fast paced world ticking. It is not merely accepted by most cultures, but worshipped as a means of initiating productivity. From the savannahs of Ethiopia, to the jungles of Vietnam, to the urban jungle of New York City, coffee unites us all. Maybe this is why it is worth studying food.
You all must think I am a coffee fanatic. Truth is, I can't handle my caffeine.