Gnosis

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A project and a theory

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DSC02093 Few things are as important to civilization as the production of alcohol. Once described as a drink fit for man as a gift from the gods, this intoxicating drink was likely the product of an accidental fermentation many years ago. However much of our prehistory theories are based in fantasy with little understanding of human nature or of the processes that primitive cultures used to live their lives on a day to day basis.

 

This will be a pretty long post, enjoy!

DSC02092  In history, we are led to believe that grain alcohols were likely the result of an accidental or lazy owner’s batch of grain/bread being left out during a rainstorm overnight. The idea was that the resultant mixture was naturally fertilized with airborne yeasties and then while the primitive slept, the grains fermented into a low alcohol soup. The next morning the native found this soup, tasted it and declared it to be something special because of the fizziness, the warmth in his belly and the feeling of elation gained by its’ consumption.

I can’t think of a more absurd idea other than the idea of socialism. Here is my own theory as to the creation of the first grain/starch based alcoholic beverages:

 

In prehistory civilizations were nomadic and wandering, they carried much of their food and water in animal hides made waterproof by traditional methods of preparation. In these societies it was the women of the tribe that prepared the foods and gathered the starchy tubers and grains while the men went out in search of meat for days on end. During the time at the village, the women would do other things like cook, especially soups since food was scarce and making a soup would maximize the nutrition of all found foods AND soften the tubers and leafy green plants that were gathered earlier. It was also the women that took care of the children, feeding them small portions of the food that they ate on a daily basis. One of the earliest method of feeding an infant after breast milk was the routine (and still popular) practice of masticating food in the parents’ mouths and giving it to their infant (the babies had no teeth but still need to gain nutrients and a bodily acceptance of local foodstuffs). In sufficiently large villages, it can be assumed that the grandparents did this for their grandchildren as the mothers went about the other more labor intensive activities. This low level economy of scale could allow batches of grandmothers chewing foods and putting it into one unified bowl for later distribution to the infants of the tribe over the course of a few days (e.g. they chew foods that they have a surplus of as a means of saving it and having it as a fast food slurry for their kids.. like baby food bottles today). Naturally the only container in this pre history that would have been widely popular would be the animal hide made waterproof. So a batch of chewed baby food was one day left out in the rain and was covered in water. This water/saliva/grain mixture would have broken down into simpler sugars because saliva has enzymes that convert starches into sugars (and at that time it was the only naturally available and readily available production of the enzyme). As the starches were breaking down, the naturally occurring yeast in the air would have made contact with the slurry and started a fermentation. If this happened in the tropics, the temperature would have assured a fast acting fermentation at a fairly high temperature (90-100 degrees the same as body temperature and the natural environment of the saliva enzymes) and with a 12 hour day/night cycle. The 12 hours of a nighttime in the dark while raining would have assured that the concoction would not have been disturbed or moved.

The next morning or the day after (in the tropics it can rain for days on end) the tribes would have left their huts as the rain stopped. They would have continued their duties and the grandmothers would have went for the baby food because the babies were crying and hungry (and well…that’s why they chewed extra, just in case they couldn’t get more food). They would have looked at this weird smelling mix and tasted it. They probably would have asked the men what they thought as well (small tribe, news travels fast) and the men after tasting it would have said that this was a gift from the gods (not knowing exactly why or how it was created) and then tell the grandmothers (after getting drunk off the mixture) to do what they did before and to get more (maybe pray to a god for help). It would have been a rare event, difficult to achieve, and considered very special. 

 

chicha This would have been the beginning of the grain beers. It is the only really true account and explanation as to why grains do not ferment readily (they’d need to be malted and redried… too many steps for a pre ag. tribe), they have starch which yeast can’t eat (but the starch can break down by spit and chewing). It explains why in every early culture women were the makers of beer. It explains how the grains would be broken down and it explains why you can still find locations today around the world that use the chew and spit method of beer making.

The Project

picaso With my idea of how the first grain beers were created I did some research and found some ratios to create a proto-beer. One pound of ground cornmeal per half gallon of water. Cinnamon and cloves for flavor enhancement. I took to the idea of brewing this mixture in traditional method one night. I flossed, brushed my teeth, scraped my tongue and gargled religiously. Then I drank water and waited for two hours before beginning (to prevent my beer from being mixed with toothpaste, mouthwash, etc. Finally I started by taking spoonfuls of cornmeal, chewing them into a slurry and putting it into one pot. After chewing for hours I added water to top off the pot and warmed the mixture on my stove top for 45 minutes (cloves and cinnamon included), slowly and never getting much above body temp (this was to ensure the enzymes had time to work instead of leaving it overnight in a pot and risk contamination). After that I brought the mix to a boil (to kill off the enzymes, destroy the saliva and kill any unwanted organisms). Once done, she was allowed to cool back down to body temp, whereby I placed her into a half gallon milk jug, seeded her with champagne yeast and covered her with a balloon pierced with pinholes (to allow gas to escape). I waited for three days (though she was fermenting in less than 1 hour after inoculation). I poured myself a drink and I have a working recipe for a traditional Chicha beer!

 

Let that be a lesson for all of you wanting to know how foods that we really love today were created over the course of seemingly innocent activities (a preparation of baby food that causes men and women to act like babies)! Never be afraid of trying new things and never turn your nose up at what might be considered gross or unsanitary. The human historical record is chock full of anomalies that by sheer accidental discovery changed the course of our destiny.

Cheers!

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Written by Josecito

July 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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