Saturday, June 8, 2013

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Drinking Advice from Sarah Josepha Hale, 1839

Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879)
After her husband died in 1822, Sarah Hale took on writing work to support her five children. Chances are, you are familiar with her work; the song Mary Had a Little Lamb was based on her 1820 poem. She edited Ladies' Magazine from 1828-1837 and later became editor of the influential Godey's Lady's Book. Among her other works, she published in 1839 The Good Housekeeper. Her advice to housewives of the time strikes sensible notes: beer and warm tea are, indeed, wholesome drinks. Well. Hot tea, anyway; warm tea has no life in it. One can almost see her lips pursed in disapproval, however, when it comes to "fermented liquors." By the time she hits stride with her not-one-drop approach to distilled spirits, we realize that we've tumbled down a rabbit hole into a Puritanical realm of proto-Prohibition.

From The Good Housekeeper, here is Mrs. Hale and her take on appropriate beverages for American households:

Why water — that is a safe drink for all constitutions and all ages — provided persons only use it when they are naturally thirsty. But do not drink heartily of cold water when heated or greatly fatigued. A cup of warm tea will better allay the thirst and give a feeling of comfort to the stomach which water will not.
Toast and water, common beer, soda-water, and other liquids of a similar kind, if they agree with the stomach, may be used freely without danger. 
Fermented liquors such as porter, ale, and wine, if used at all as a drink, should be very sparingly taken. Distilled spirituous liquors should never be considered drinkable—they may be necessary, sometimes, as a medicine but never, never consider them a necessary item in house-keeping. So important does it appear to me to dispense entirely with distilled spirits, as an article of domestic use, that I have not allowed a drop to enter into any of the recipes contained in this book. 
As the primary effect of fermented liquors, cider, wine, &c is to stimulate the nervous system, and quicken the circulation, these should be utterly prohibited to children and persons of a quick temperament. In truth, unless prescribed by the physician, it would be best to abstain entirely from their use.
Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell. 1839. The Good Housekeeper: Or, The Way to Live Well and to be Well While We Live: Containing Directions for Choosing and Preparing Food, in Regard to Health, Economy and Taste. Boston: Weeks, Jordan and Company.

Goes well with:

  • William "The Only William" Schmidt pontificates on Why Men Drink in his 1891 bartending manual The Flowing Bowl
  • W.O Rigby gets into the spirit of Prohibition by thumbing his nose at Volstead with his 1920 fake-out Prohibition Schooners.

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