19th Century Gatorade
I just have to share the most recent ALHFAM listserv discussion, as it has been both hilarious and informative. The big topic of conversation has been how to keep interpretive staff safe during the lovely 100+ degree weather many of us in the States have been enjoying.
Initially, the topic covered levels of dress, and how “undressed” it was appropriate for staff members to get on the hot days. The general agreement is that following the tradition of doing heavy labor early in the mornings is best, and sticking to the shade when possible. Levels of undress will depend on the situation of the individual. A day laborer can probably get away with a little more relaxed clothing than a high society lady.
The other piece of the discussion, and the one that I was unfamiliar with, is about beverages. Of course we all suggest drinking large amounts of water on hot days to keep hydrated, but several people mentioned that they still felt sick when only drinking water. The next suggestion was to include Gatorade, as a means of replacing electrolytes. A whole slew of people responded, noting that they either disliked the taste, had stomach trouble with it, or wanted something they could drink in front of visitors that was period appropriate.
And here we came to switchel. I had never heard of this before, but it was an 18th-19th century beverage made from some combination of vinegar (cider), sweetener (honey, molasses, or sugar), water, and occasionally ginger.
Now, there was some confusion on the list. The culinary historians who chimed in said that n the 18th Century, switchel contained alcohol, but into the 19th Century it transitioned to a non-alcoholic beverage. I have not yet been able to find any receipts for an alcoholic version, but I’ll keep looking. Depending on the period of history you are interpreting/reenacting, you’ll want to make sure you know which version to discuss. You can always, of course, drink the nonalcoholic version but discuss the roots of the drink.
Another beverage that was mentioned was shrub. It uses fruit, vinegar, and sugar, boiled down into a syrup and then mixed with water. This was then poured into water for a refreshing beverage.
Part of me really wants to give this a try now. Have you tried any of these concoctions?