Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Johnny Appleseed's birthday

You may recall hearing about John Chapman, known even in his lifetime as Johnny Appleseed, a strange galoot who went about barefoot (even in winter) sowing apple orchards across the expanding American frontier.

Well, Johnny Appleseed really existed, and he was born on this day in 1774. Unsurprising, then, that most of the Usual Suspects acknowledge today as Johnny Appleseed Day. Cecil Adams, the host and proprietor of "The Straight Dope," has a great article on the late Mr. Chapman -- chock full of stuff you probably didn't know when you first heard the legend of Johnny Appleseed:
In the 1700s and 1800s, most apples were grown not for eating but for making hard cider. Johnny Appleseed didn't just bring fresh fruit to the frontier, he brought the alcoholic drink of choice.

Cider was safer, tastier, and easier to make than corn liquor. You pressed the apples to produce juice, let the juice ferment in a barrel for a few weeks, and presto! you had a mildly alcoholic beverage, about half the strength of wine. For something stronger, the cider could be distilled into brandy or frozen into applejack (about 66 proof). In rural areas, cider took the place not only of wine and beer but also of coffee, juice, even water.
Adams writes that it wasn't until the Temperance Movement really got rolling that we stopped drinking apples and started drinking them.

So it really would be appropriate to celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day at your local this evening. Order a bottle of cider. It might be easier than going out to pick apples this year anyway. Yes, we are in apple picking time in much of the United States -- but, in many places, this has been a tough year for apples.

Today is also National Food Service Employees Day. Tell the kids to be nice to the poor cafeteria ladies for a change.

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