Book Review : “A History of the World in Six Glasses”

This is my first month doing book reviews alongside The Kitchen Reader online book club. May’s selection was “A History of the World in Six Glasses” by Tom Standage.

 

As you can gather from the title, this is a work of nonfiction and explores the narrative of humanity through the lens of 6 definitive drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola. The premise is vaguely interesting and I was curious to learn some little known tidbits about these drinks, their discovery process and culture shaping tendencies. The book is divided into one section for each drink and follows a sort of liquid timeline exploring each libation in its heyday, from invention to acceptance to mass consumption.

Contrary to its damp subject matter, I found this book kind of dry. While each drink had some curious insights, for the most part I think the author placed too heavy an importance on the evolution of these liquids and their influence on the annals of history. Surely they were formative, but I had a hard time giving them the clout he did. He dedicates the rise and fall of civilizations, societies, the Enlightenment and British Imperialism to these powerful elixirs which eh, seemed like a stretch to me.

Though Coca-Cola is my least favorite of these drinks, I enjoyed that chapter the most. Probably  because it was the most modern setting and there were some fun facts about its infiltration around the world. The brand recognition and its association with the spreading of Western culture were vastly interesting points. All in all, this book isn’t gripping or life changing, but it could be worth a skim for history buffs just for a different perspective. I recommend reading in a comfy chair, surrounded by many leather-bound books while sipping an old fashioned and occasionally spinning an antique globe. Smoking jacket optional.

 

 

Advertisements

Coffee City

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

 

When discussing our upcoming move to Seattle last fall, there were consistently two comments from our friends and family. “Seattle!? It rains all the time there!” and “Oh, they’ll have some great coffee since that is where Starbucks started! “. We’ve since discovered that the weather is really pretty fantastic, some  of the best I’ve experienced living in the States. I wore my winter coat for about 6 days between November and January. Sure it rains sometimes, but more often than not the forecast that predicted 70% chance of rain all day is, in actuality, a crystal clear blue sky. And I happen to enjoy the occasional cozy, rainy, melancholy day. What I could not take any more, were the six month long, frigidly soul crushing ice baths that the Mid West calls “Winter”. You know in Game of Thrones, when Fryanyzne of House Cargartenthylisa whispers in abject fear  that “Winter is coming”?  The entire city of Chicago walks around like that from the end of September until the bitter, unceasing winds eventually cause them to become hermits or perpetually angry. bundled up white walkers.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Also, Starbucks barely sells coffee anymore, and seems to now concentrate on selling chai with bits of real Oprah*. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t sure how being Starbucks’ origin city would mean that spectacular coffee would be flowing through its streets. But, I stand corrected since Seattle has some incredible coffee establishments. Some are ideal for working on a laptop all afternoon, some require a paperback and a few are best for bringing along nothing at all. Well, maybe a friend and some money. Read on for my favorites:

 

 

Slate Coffee Bar  

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetThis city has constantly surprised me with its affable and laid back vibe. In Chicago when people were friendly, I’d be suspicious. Like, “Why are we talking right now? What are you trying to get out of this conversation?” I know, I’m the worst. But seriously, it was rare to be chatty out and about at bars or coffee shops. But Seattle has made me less cynical. You can easily become a welcome regular and the people working usually take a few minutes to chat and are genuinely interested in connecting. Nowhere is this more evident than Slate Coffee Bar. I’ve only been here twice but Chelsea recognized me and even remembered that I had a food blog! Plus, their coffee is brilliant so I am now a devotee for life. The small space in Ballard can accommodate about 10-12 people  and I love to sit at the bar to see all the goings on. They love to chat about their coffees and the menu is extremely simple since their coffee needs no crazy embellishments. I suggest bringing just yourself and trying a tasting flight. You are in good hands with those baristas.

Analog Coffee

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

This is literally across the street from my apartment, so they are probably used to seeing my Saturday morning disheveled self stumbling in for a to go cup to drink while I cook myself breakfast. With a simple coffee menu and a few snacks, Analog is an ideal spot to hipster watch and work for a couple hours. They provide killer tunes from their record player and have a nice selection of magazines, newspapers and comic books scattered about. I love their cold brew and have been known to enjoy a macchiato from time to time. I just wish they were open later than 6 pm!

 

Milstead and Co.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Down the street from the Troll in Fremont, Milstead and Co. is roomy, light and airy. You just feel happy walking inside, as long as you can find a table. It can get a bit crowded sometimes. Their beans are from a few different roasters and it always makes me smile to see those familiar, red Intelligentsia bags. This is a good spot to work or read for a few hours on their rustic, pretty wooden tables. I also adore their gorgeous Coffee Plant artwork. I usually get an aeropress of whatever they recommend.

 

Vif wine and coffee

Vif-chalkboard

Up the street from the charming Book Larder and the perpetual line that is Paseo, sits a lovely cafe/bar with walls of windows. Vif  has a casual, luxurious feel that begs for a novel, light afternoon snack accompanied with a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Its morning, afternoon and snackette menu feels fancier than your normal breakfast sandwich and its wine shop is a nice browse when you need to stretch your legs. They often have wine tastings in their space, so just check their website if you are planning to go for a long while.

 

 

* Everybody gets a CHAIIII!!!!

 

The Bee’s Knees

Bees-Knees-Cocktail

 

I used to hate the taste of alcohol. Growing up it wasn’t around much and us kids would stare in shock when our parents had a glass of wine, which happened about once a year.

After I turned 21 and tried a few drinks, I’m deeply ashamed to say that my drink of choice for a while was a Smirnoff Ice : Cranberry Lime Splash. Horrifying I know. I said I was deeply ashamed ok!?

To get his girlfriend to appreciate the nuances of a good drink, and because I was probably embarrassing to be around holding this red monstrosity, Brandon started making some super citrusy cocktails for me to try. One of my favorites was a Bee’s Knees. This is a prohibition era drink, like most great cocktails are. Extremely simple, it’s comprised of gin, lemon and honey syrup. To make a batch of honey syrup, mix up equal parts honey and boiling water. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. My favorite gin to use is Death’s Door, but a much cheaper alternative is New Amsterdam. In an ice-cold fancy glass, garnished with a lemon twist, this cocktail will totally give you street cred. At least more than a Smirnoff Ice would.

 

 

Bee’s Knees

2 shots of gin

1/2 shot of lemon juice

1/2 shot honey syrup

 

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.

Shake vigorously for about 15 -20 seconds.

Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.