Reviving Alewives

A dream of mine is to start a worker-owned cooperative that would provide low alcohol-content, traditionally-fermented beverages in a social atmosphere. Reading about the history of the alewives in Jessica Prentice’s book “Full Moon Feast”, emphasized what was lost to the European culture during a short period of time between the 15th to 17th centuries; the time of the witch burnings. You can watch an hour-length film on this topic by clicking on “The Burning Times.”

Wife in Old English simply meant woman. And, for who knows how long “alewives” were present throughout Europe making fermented and cultured tonics with herbs for families, friends, and to sell in the markets. Like most indigenous or aboriginal communities, Europeans also had a a wide variety of traditionally fermented drinks. I presume that much of this was stamped out with the estimated 3 to 8  million women (and men, actually) killed during the witch burnings (pretty awkward estimate of total murders, but lots of conflicting data on this). The very women (and men) that kept the nourishment of the people intact, was being stamped out. Why?

I found a pamphlet called ‘Radical Brewing’ by a man in England. I really liked the back cover of the pamphlet as it illuminates the topic of alewives a bit more:

Everything revolves around food and nourishment. And, looking back on my life, I wasn’t taught enough about this. For some reason, how to feed yourself properly is a fringe priority in this country. Well, looking at the rate of increase of chronic diseases over the past 50 years, I don’t think we can continue to look away from our guts! Traditional food ways are the way to go… If you want to read more about this, check out Weston A. Price’s work; he has started a major revolution in the food/nutrition community. Price was a dentist and he traveled the world looking at indigenous food ways and dental health. Basically, those who retained their traditional diets did not have the dental problems like those that strayed from traditional diets to ‘modern,’ more industrialized diets.

Remembering our traditional diet ways, caring for the Earth that provides us with such bounty, and getting back into the habit of a community food approach will do wonders for our guts, our minds, and our hearts. Check out what Jessica Prentice is doing in Berkeley with a concept called, Community Supported Kitchens (CSK) to stir up some thoughts on what is possible. Or, better yet, check out People’s Grocery which was started by a group of concerned residents in the economically challenged area of West Oakland, CA. I imagine as the false hopes of an ever-expanding economy start dwindling in our American awareness, grassroots efforts that really answer to a community’s needs around food and nourishment will begin to flourish.


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