Although many of us take clean drinking water for granted, the availability of such water didn’t always exist in the old world. The ancient Egyptians drank wine and beer as an alternative to drinking water that may have been tainted with physical, chemical, and biological contaminants. The legendary King Tut who ruled Egypt from 1333 BCE until his death in 1323 BCE was known to have enjoyed red wine. In addition to jars of this wine that were found in his tomb (some of which were imported from Greece), painted murals such as the one pictured above depicted workers harvesting grapes and crushing them underfoot to begin the fermentation process.
Even though the existence of germs wouldn’t be postulated until the late 17th century, it was well known that water added to wine rendered this liquid perfectly safe to drink. The ancient Greeks typically drank their wine diluted by 50% water. During the time of Plato, Socrates, and Xenephon a dinner with watered wine was regarded as an essential part of any civilized meal. Drinking watered wine was thought to ease the spirit, fortify the soul, and promote conversation.
Wine and beer were seen as safe, healthy, and reliable beverages through the 1800’s while water was often regarded with suspicion. Contaminated water was known to cause all sorts of ailments including cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever. Shakespeare even alluded to the uncleanliness of water in his play, Othello. In Act 5, scene 2, the character Othello referred to Desdemona as being as, “False as water.” It would not be until the advent of municipal filtration systems (first built in 1804) that people began to safely drink water within municipal areas.
For a great many years, grapes were primarily used to make wine and vinegar. Sometime during the early 16th century, King Francois I (1494-1547) began eating Chasselas grapes as a dessert. This practice was soon adopted by the nobility who were then emulated by the middle class. This practice of eating fresh grapes has now been followed for over 500 years. Although most grapes are still used to produce wine, 27% of the world’s annual grape harvest are eaten as fresh fruit while an additional 2% are dried to produce raisins.
Since I am allergic to alcohol, I’ve never understood the point of drinking. While others talk about the pleasant buzz that comes from inebriation, the merest sip of any alcohol beverage will turn my face beet red and will give me a pounding headache. I am told that I lack an enzyme to digest alcohol. In graduate school this made me the designated driver which was not a function that I enjoyed.
Not only was it impossible to ever have a conversation in a crowded nightclub that was filled with pounding music but I didn’t appreciate the loss of control my friends experienced after they had downed a few drinks. Some became silly. One became maudlin. After a third threw up on the backseat of my car, I swore off ever again attending a nightclub or being a designated driver.
Having previously made orange and apple candles, I have now begun making grape candles. After having found a silicone mold for some grapes on Etsy, I used melted grape colored and scented wax to “glue” two molded bunches of grapes together to produce the candles pictured below.
Since these two grape halves were never meant to go together, I used blueberries to fill in the “rough spots” and painted over them with grape colored wax. The end result was that each bunch of grapes looks a bit different.
As with so many of my candles, I made these as a limited production test series just to see if I could do it. I was not entirely pleased with the result. As you may have noticed in the above picture, some of the grapes have irregular blobs of wax stuck to them. Although I could smooth these away with a heated sculpting tool, this would require time and effort that I would rather devote to other projects.