Adam’s Ale

Print More

(Betty Smith) As VPR celebrates our 25th anniversary, it’s given us the opportunity to remember some of the people who helped shape VPR. Back in 1977, VPR wanted to provide local news, but in the early years we simply couldn’t afford the kind of journalists needed to produce news coverage equal to that of NPR.

So we looked to our friends and neighbors and in 1988 created the VPR Commentary Series – it’s been going strong ever since. Our first commentator was Janet Greene. Janet was a well-known independent book publisher and editor. But it was her zest for life that made her memorable.

She was an early and tireless supporter of public radio and together, she and I learned what makes a good radio commentary.

From the VPR archives, here’s one of Janet’s earliest commentaries:

(Greene) Soo, how do you beat the heat ? Welllll, you stay in the shade, or play in water, OR if you’re feeling really yucky, you rest quietly indoors, with a cool compress held to the back of your neck. And you drink plenty of fluids, ranging from the athletes’ fortified quenchers after a stiff workout, to the socializing long cool one at poolside, on up to the best one of all: water.

You see, in very hot weather hot and humid weather the simpler your beverage, the better. Therefore, the health and nutrition letters from the schools of public health at the University of California at Berkeley, at Tufts University and from the Mayo Clinic all agree on water.

A grown-up person needs at least ten cups of fluid every normal day. In hot weather, of course, a person needs a lot more, just to run the human cooling system. We operate on the same mechanical principle that a modern refrigerator does: we get hot; we sweat; and, as the moisture on our skin evaporates, we cool off.

All the ads these days show containers of the so-called “wine-coolers”, and beer, and uncountable “soft” drinks, all designed to cool people off, as we chug-a-lug the product. There’s new stuff on the market to restore the balance of our bodies’ minerals, lost through heroic exercise, like a marathon.

But if such drinks are really needed, I’ll put my money instead on the old-time farmers’ “switchel” – that classic of the hayfield, when haying was done by hand, and forkfuls were pitched high into the hay wagon in the noon-day sun. Each farm had its own recipe-proportions for switchel, but basically it was (and still is!) cider vinegar, ground ginger, molasses and/or maple syrup, and cool, fresh spring water. You might say it’s the granddaddy of “Gatorade”-type drinks.

Nutritionists warn us not to rely on “soft drinks made with sweet syrups when we’re dry – really dry – in hot weather. They even say, don’t take a lot of fruit juices either to slake our thirst. Reason? The sugar – dextrose, sucrose, or fructose – hinders the water in the drink from helping to cool us off.

Alcohol in a “cooler-downer” is a relaxant, sure. But it’s also a depressant. A good “social” beverage, without sweet-sweet additives or alcohol – is a mere “slosh” of lemon juice. Two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice, is fine in a tall glass of cold water. Dress it up with a slice of orange, or whatever. Another one that’s growing in popularity asks for several “shakes” of bitters into plain seltzer or still water. Bitters is the flavoring added to holiday cocktails. Experiment. But the best hot-weather drink of all is… “Adam’s Ale”!

I’m blessed with a gravity-flow spring. It rises in the high mowing up behind the farmhouse. Cold, sweet, no “additives” and no “chemicals” to help it pass the tests by the State Health Department. It is ever-flowing. It’s the Grand Old Beverage and it’s the thing I miss the most, when I’m traveling away from home.

One of the best old-time farmers I’ve ever known, would wedge the last bale in place, on a towering load headed for the barn, then jump down, take the canvas-covered water-jug, and drink deep. And he’d swipe his shirtsleeve across his mouth and say: Adam’s Ale!

Think of that: the Ale of Adam, the drink of all God’s creatures, since the beginning of time. Say it! Say Adam’s Ale!” the next time you drink cool water when you’re hot; and that water will be the sweetest drink you’ve ever tasted.

(Host) For many years, the late Janet Greene was an editor, writer and observer of country ways from her hillside farmhouse in West Dover, Vermont. We hope you’ve enjoyed this rebroadcast of her classic 1990 commentary as part of VPR’s 25th Anniversary Celebration.

Comments are closed.