The Dutch Larder,
page 11 of 13
They were dissatisfied, and “solicited” another pint of beer. Even the carters who brought wood and the boatmen who floated down spars were served with liquor. When the carpenters placed the roof-tree, a half-barrel of liquor was given them. Another half-barrel under the name of tiles-beer went to the tile-setters. The special completion of the winding staircase demanded five guilders’worth of liquor. When the house was finished, a kraeg, or housewarming, of both food and drink to all the workmen and their wives was demanded and refused. Well it might be refused, when the liquor bill without it amounted to seven hundred and sixteen guilders.
The amount of liquor required to help in conducting an election was very great. In 1738 James Alexander and Eventhus Van Horne paid over seventy-two pounds for one election bill. Liquor then was cheap. This sum purchased sixty-two gallons of Jamaica rum, several gallons of brandy, eight gallons of lime-juice, a “pyd” of wine which cost sixteen pounds (I don’t know what a “pyd” could have been), a large amount of shrub, and mugs and “gugs” and “bottels.” There were also two bagpipes and a fiddler.
Let me give, as a feeble excuse for the large consumption of beer, cider, etc., that the water was poor in many of the towns. Kalm wrote of the Albany water:—
“The water of several of the wells was very cool about this time, but had a kind of acid taste which was not very agreeable. I think this water is not very wholesome for people who are not used to it. Nearly every house in Albany has its well, the water of which is applied to common use; but for tea, brewing, and washing they commonly take the water of the river.”
What can be the other “common use” to which well-water was applied, except putting out fires, —which is an infrequent use?
In New York City the water was equally poor. The famous Tea-water Pump supplied in barrels for many years the more fastidious portion of the community. Perhaps we could scarcely expect them to drink much water when they had to buy it.
Our notions of life in New Netherland have been so thoroughly shaped by Diedrich Knickerbocker’s tergiversating account thereof, that it would be difficult for us to make any marked change in the picture he has painted. Nor do we need to do so.