Tag Archives: Padma Lakshmi

On Psychology, culture, and juleps

Derby Day
Recently, my cultural heritage soul-sister the exceptional being Padma Lakshmi stated “to eat is political.” Everything that brings people together over food and libations has significance: context, connection, nurturance, nourishment, metacognition, tradition, ritual, and history.

The sharing of food is not a neutral act.

In fact, I believe that what we consume becomes our psychology.

The iconic Mint Julep originated in ancient Persia (Iran). It was used as both a beverage and a luxurious bath for imperial princesses, and was known as Gulab (Elixir of Roses). It was also prescribed for shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, and anxiety. The name Gulab morphed into Julab, and then Julep, and spread widely through Egypt, India, Turkey (the Byzantine Empire), and Rome. As it spread, the lush mint supplies in the Mediterranean increasingly replaced the rose petals in the delicious concoctions. Reportedly, Michaelangelo was so enamored of juleps that he imbibed every morning.

Juleps became increasingly popular in Colonial America in the 18th century, where they were initially made with high proof rum, brandy, honey, muddled mint, and fresh fruit. They were considered to be an upscale beverage because of the exorbitant price of rum and brandy. As British taxes on liquor increased, farmers started making an affordable whiskey from grain and corn, that was eventually called bourbon. Southern states had the fertile soil to make it possible.

Though initially created for financial reasons, bourbon quickly increased in popularity and prestige beyond the South. Currently, the liquor industry reports that bourbon pumps $9 billion per year into Kentucky’s economy alone.

Here’s to the Julep and the Derby, via the Middle East, India, Rome, and the American South. The psychology of libations. Related: Nine Reasons Why Cross Cultural Friendships Are Great for Your Brain.

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