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This, the last of the "Seven Drinks," is the hardest entry for me to write. My wife often jokes that water doesn't pass my lips, but of course it does, in the form of coffee, beer and wine, etc. I've even been known to consume substantial quantities of sparkling water, or "bubbly water," as I call it. I like it by itself, mixed with juice, or even (especially in the summer) to dilute wine.

We can live without food for weeks, but without water we'd be dead in a matter of days. After air, it's got to be the second most important thing that keeps us alive. But I find myself hard-pressed to find things to say about it. Well, I'm sure I can squeeze out a sentence or two.

Well water, often laden with minerals, tastes better than treated municipal water.

I sometimes wonder about the impact of the Antrim Iron Works in the early years of the twentieth century, on the drinking water of my home town, Mancelona, Michigan. One of the lakes outside of town is called "Tarwater." I remember being told to avoid even swimming in that water.

One of the reasons that humans started drinking beer (and later wine) in Egypt and Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, was because they moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture. When populations were constantly moving, water supplies tended to be safe. But fixed settlements meant that there was an increased chance that human waste would contaminate water supplies. The cultivation of grain led to beer, and since beer was boiled, it was much safer to drink than water.

I remember, as a high school basketball player, counting my swallows at the drinking fountain (17 or 18, usually). I remember, on long-distance bike rides, drinking incredible quantities of water. I remember a train ride from Barcelona to Granada at night, after having drunk a lot of wine, and being so thirsty that nothing could have made me happier than a bottle of water.

Little boys will barge into Spanish bars and demand a glass of water, which is promptly served to them. In Sevilla in the summer, if you order a coffee, it is served with a glass of water.

I vaguely recall Johnny Cash, on the "Live at Folsom Prison" album, asking the guards for a glass of water.

Water, the most important of all drinks, but somehow the most nondescript.

Michigan water
tastes like sherry wine.
Oh, the Mississippi water
tastes like turpentine.

-Jelly Roll Morton



February 2019



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