Tuesday, November 21, 2006


My favorite kids book at the moment is "Ahhh!" said Stork by Gerald Rose. The stork wants to eat this egg it finds but can't break it; so all the other animals help out, hippo rolls on it, lion bites it, flamingo flies it up high and drops it but nothing works. The animals all stop and are staring at it when it starts to crack and out comes a baby alligator. The first picture makes the alligator look huge but then the next page shows all the other animals running away (the stork comments "I thought it was a bad egg") and the alligator is just tiny tiny. The alligator saunters off to reunite with his brothers and sisters in the pond and shoots off a parting, "Just wait till I'm grown".

My favorite grownup book at the moment is "The Empire of Tea" by Alan and Iris Mcfarlane a neat history/social commentary/autobiography of a mother and son who lived on a tea plantation in India. It is making me want to drink a lot of tea. It talks about how tea became an integral part of two island cultures Japan and England. One of the big pushes in both places initially was how good it was for you and how it would cure many ails. Because the making of it involved boiling water - it provided a healthier alternative to water and it was healthier and cheaper than beer. It is easy to grown and can be harvested every 6 weeks, it is easy and light to transport, easy to make, tea leaves can be used again for economy, and it gives both a lift and calms. Although intially a drink for the rich it soon became a staple for everyone in society with even the poorest being able to afford it. In Japan it was drunk straight but soon in England it was drunk with milk and sugar which gave it some protein. One of the few pleasures of the workers was a tea break, which buoyed them up and allowed them to work longer and harder then the otherwise would have been able. And after a long day a worker would enjoy his small indulgence of tea at home. It gave the women of the upper and middle classes something to do as they were not welcome in the popular coffee shops and certainly not in the taverns. They could go to tea houses or host tea parties and socialize with their friends. It was the one public area that was under their domain and the elaborate rituals that evolved allowed for endless class distinctions and jockeying for position. Then later the public parks which flourished in London served tea and it created an outing that women and children were allowed to attend. In the world of nannies, tea time was the one time children got to spend with their mother. Coffee was too strong for the delicate women and children, but tea was for all - well at least in Holland and England and America (before the famous Boston tea party when it became unpatriotic - the cafe at the Senate has re-re-named their freedom fries back to french fries). It never really caught on in the rest of Europe... ah the sociologist in me eats (or should I say drinks) this stuff up.

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