Elevenses: A brief history of lemonade
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are armed to the tentacles with refreshments so, step right in, carefully avoiding the empty glass bottles, mountains of yellow fruit, scatterings of sugar crystals, and the slightly sticky gentleman jibbering to himself in the corner, and take a seat on an upturned lemonade crate while I regale you with the results of my diligent research on the fascinating history of Lemonade ….
Lemons originated in India and it wasn’t until the twelfth century that they got bored and migrated (astutely procuring a ride in the baskets and barrels of hot-footing humans) to Egypt and the Mediterranean. The Persian poet and traveller Nasir-I-Khushraw provides us with the first written evidence that a heady and addictive mixture of sugar, lemon juice and water (known as qatarzimat) was being guzzled apace by the locals of these regions but it is safe to assume that this convivial combination had been enjoyed for many years in Asia before his observations were made.
By the thirteenth century qatarzimat was well established and market records from Cairo show the crowds just couldn’t get enough of it and in Mongolia the lushes were swigging it laced with plenty moonshine (well, it must have beaten the alternative drink of the day… horse milk…)
But why is lemonade so addictive?
Well, the scientists tell us that the secret is not so much in the sugar as in the lemons themselves! The sourness of this innocent little yellow fruit grenade stimulates saliva production – an effect which lasts for long after the lemonade has been consumed. The brain then comes to associate the lemonade with the quenching of thirst and so craves it, particularly when the we are a little dehydrated (which for us tea fiends is of course most of the time).
But I digress… by the 1600s limonadiers were selling the stuff on the streets of France with huge dispensers strapped to their backs and of course it wasn’t then long before the Brits caught on to the lucrativity of the lemon.
When thousands of Europeans flocked over to America in the 1800s, the lemons saw their chance to make world-domination complete and lemonade swiftly became the choice drink of the gold miners due to its astounding ability to combat scurvy (did you know the humble lemon has more vitamin c than your average orange? Yep, you thought pirates were guzzling rum during their Golden Age? Wrong, they were glugging lemonade…. with rum in it ….)
But alas Lemonade Lucy (First Lady Lucy Hayes) and her Lemonade Brigade prohibitionists’ persistent pontificating on the virtues of lemonade vs the evils of alcohol lead to some bad press for our beloved beverage and today it is widely considered a drink for infants, invalids and the faint of heart.
So there you have it, a brief history of the rise and fall of the Lemonade Empire as it occurred in your dimension. Next week I shall be holding forth on how Lemonade came to be an addictive and highly illegal substance here in out beloved Isles Of Ire and furnishing you with some fabulous recipes for making your own. Would you like to see some photographs of antiquated lemonade vendors before you go? Please excuse the stickiness at the edges…
Lemonade vendor in Selanik, Ottoman empire, pre-1890
German lemonade vendor 1931
Charles W. Hamill Silver-Plated Lemonade Pitcher, Baltimore, Maryland.
Now then, perhaps I can tempt you with a bottle of the good stuff as we kick our tentacles up and tune in the spirit radio to something splendid…
Not one for the prohibitionists then! We wish you a delightful afternoon and invite you back to join us in the parlour again soon. Until then, please be always