Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A drink a day keeps the heart disease away.

I remember an ex-colleague who once said, "The moment I read about the iniquity of drinking, I gave up read-ing" (…instead of drinking). He has never once believed that drinking is too bad. He could have been the first to call me and ―herald the recent incredible ―flat-earth kind of news released by BBC, had he not renounced reading anything about alcohol. Just last week, a British Medical Journal published the works of a lead researcher professor Morten Gronbaek from the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark. In brief, the study pointed out that people will be ―immune from incidence of heart at-tacks, strokes, and other forms of circulatory disease, and might reduce the incidence of certain cancers if only they are drinkers. This study suggests that the benefits of boozing increase with age. Accordingly, ―indeed over age 65, not only does moderate drinking prolong life, but so does heavy drinking! The moderate drinkers have a 40 percent lower mortality rate than the abstainers, and even the heavy drinkers have a 12 per cent lower mortality rate. Wow!
While for some across the globe this has simply been a mockery of science, several people have already showed a proclivity for boozing around here, at least. Some have already increased their daily consumption up to four bïrïle (flask for drinking T’әj (honey wine) ….the teetotalers are sure to join the club…gradually. As a result of this scientific ―breakthrough, I can assure you that in no time we‘ll constantly be reminded by the age-old maxim of the night owl 'one for the road' in our local TV and billboards. It‘s no more a surprise that time has come when 'an apple a day …'changes to 'a drink a day'.

Since T’әj is still highly regarded by most communities in Ethiopia as a magical drink, such news would definitely create halcyon days, if you may, for owners of T’әj betoch (T’әj houses). Being made of honey, water and gesho (the fermenting herb), many local folks enjoy this local drink called T’әj. To make T’әj milder just take out the gesho, and you have a beverage called bïrz, (a mixture of honey and water that is allowed to ferment, very slightly, on its own for a few days before it's consumed). Bïrz, doesn't have the spicy pungency of full-on T’әj, and it certainly doesn't have the alcohol con-tent.
Even various ancient documents testify that T’әj has been part of the ordinary food table, for a very long time, at least, to the ones with moderate incomes, and surely for the royalty. Even a third century A.D historical text during the height of Axum's power, described it vividly. The inscription goes on to portray the victuals of the monarchy as follows: "There's virgin mutton, virgin beef, honey, wheat, beer, a bucket of butter and - best of all - T’әj, honey wine." Even to date at different parts of Ethiopia, T’әj has still been made with various flavors, thus, "ye'mar T’әj ," honey wine made with honey," "ye'areke T’әj " (flavored with areke, a gin-like local drink), "ye'buna T’әj," which is honey wine flavored with coffee (buna), or we can make "ye'birtukan T’әj " (flavored with orange), or "ye'zinjibil T’әj " (flavored with ginger), or "ye'muz T’әj " (flavored with banana) …I really doubt whether some of us have ever heard or tasted any of the above flavors… Anyway, while the fresh discovery surely serves regular drinkers to tempt some to join their club, the former‘s call was not just to turn us drink up to a merry pitch till the tongues run before our wit, and never give off till the drink be all out. On the contrary, I think, drinking in moderation has always been the commonplace folk‘s wisdom around here, as it may be elsewhere. In fact, the Amharic saying, “marïm sibәza yïmәral” (even honey turns sour if it‘s taken too much") explains it plainly.
However, for now alcohol appears the answer, and chances are some big names would soon start endorsing alcoholic beverages like T’әj and other local drinks. I also expect the first to act in this direction could be local vocalists who would amend their video clips by showing yә bïrïle T’әj,(a flask of T’әj) who knows? It‘s something to encourage moderate drinking so as to live healthier and longer lives. It‘s another to stretch its context beyond a drink a day to keep a heart disease away.

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