72 pages • 2 hours readTom Standage
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In his introduction, “Vital Fluids”, Standage outlines the structure of the book and gives a brief overview of its contents. There are six sections of two chapters each, and each section deals with one of the six beverages he has chosen to represent different stages in human history: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola. By pointing out that humans can survive far longer without food than they can without something to drink, Standage makes clear the significance of the beverages he discusses, not just to culture but to human life itself. Despite their differences, Standage notes that each of these drinks have helped to “shape human history” (1) in distinct ways.
Chapter 1, “A Stone-Age Brew”, begins with a discussion of how agriculture developed around 12,000 years ago in an area known as the Fertile Crescent. Standage talks about how beer was discovered, rather than invented and it seems likely that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had come across alcohol in the form of fermented wild cereal grains or fruits before they ever settled down to farm. However, it was only when agricultural settlements became more widespread that the technology to grow and store grain provided the means for people to brew beer.
By Tom Standage