viernes, julio 07, 2006

Siglo XIX, La alianza del Pobre y el Probiótico

Esta es la increible historia, de un mercado popular que nació y se extendió por el mundo occidental, en la comercialización, de la llamada "Cerveza de Jengibre" o en inglés "GingerBeer", y que durante décadas compitió contra la cerveza manufacturada y otras bebidas refrescantes o gaseosas.
Finalmente sirvió según se cree para la identificación y primer estudio científico sobre la fermentación simbiótica, de microorganismos, hoy englobados en el término probióticos.
Posiblemente al hablar de "Ginger-beer plant" estamos hablando de Kefir de Agua adaptado a la solución azucarada con limón y genjibre, sea como fuere, la lucha entre probióticos libres de patentes y mercado neoliberal globalizado, acababa de empezar ya hace más de 150 años.

En un artículo de Henry Mayhew, nos habla de como era la forma de vida, para las clases más pobres de la inglaterra victoriana, de los productos que se comercializaban por la calle a bajo coste y baja calidad y como uno de ellos era la "Ginger-Beer":
"The drinkables are tea, coffee, and cocoa; ginger--beer, lemonade, Persian sherbet, and some highly-coloured beverages which have no specific name, but are introduced to the public as “cooling” drinks; hot elder cordial or wine; peppermint water; curds and whey; water (as at Hampstead); rice milk; and milk in the parks. "... "Cyder-cups perhaps he would not get; but there would be ‘gingerbeer from the fountain, at 1d. per glass;’ and instead of mulled claret, he could indulge in hot elder cordial; whilst for dessert he could calculate upon all the delicacies of the season, from the salads at the corner of Wych-street to the baked apples at Temple Bar. None of these things would cost more than a penny a piece; some of them would be under that sum; and since as at Verey‘s, and some other foreign restaurateurs, there is no objection to your dividing the “portions,” the boy might, if he felt inclined to give a dinner to a friend, get off under 6d. There would be the digestive advantage too of moving leisurely about from one course to another; and, above all, there would be no fee to waiters.”

En otro artículo esta vez de 1877, por J.Thomson y Adolphe Smith, titulado "MUSH-FAKERS" AND GINGER-BEER MAKERS, se analiza el fenómeno comercial de la cerveza de los pobres y los desencuentros entre vendedores callejeros de "Ginger-Beer" con fabricantes de bebidas al por mayor en la inglaterra Victoriana:
"ACCORDING to a rough estimate there must be about 300,000 gallons of ginger-beer sold per annum in the streets and immediate neighbourhood of London.
This summer beverage, therefore, represents an important trade, and it has the further advantage of giving employment to a number of indigent persons who would otherwise, probably, fall on the rates. The trade requires but little capital, no skill, and scarcely any knowledge. A pound or thirty shillings would suffice to start a man or woman in this business, and a recipe for the brewing of ginger-beer is easily obtained. The difficulty, if any, consists of boiling the ginger in the large volume of water employed. For instance, three pounds of ginger are generally used for nine gallons of water, and will make altogether a gross of ginger-beer.
The poor who make ginger-beer do not, however, possess stew-pans that will hold nine gallons; and, therefore, do not scruple to resort to the copper. This disgusting habit of boiling ginger in the same vessel which serves for washing the dirty linen of several families is, I fear, extensively practised, nor is it thought in any way derogatory to the value and popularity of the drink.
The ginger-beer seller who initiated me into this mystery acknowledged that he used the copper in his house, after the other lodgers had finished washing and boiling their clothes, and did not for a moment anticipate that I should take exception to such a practice. When the strength of the ginger has been extracted by boiling, a little lemon acid, some essence of cloves, loaf sugar, and yeast have to be added. The mixture can then be bottled, and should be left to stand twenty-four hours. If, however, the stock has suddenly fallen short, either through excessive demand, resulting from the sudden advent of hot weather, or in consequence of the small supply of bottles possessed by dealers whose capital is very limited, a larger quantity of yeast will produce effervescence much sooner. Further, to add to the sharpness which should result from the essence of lemon, some makers do not hesitate to employ a little oil of vitriol so that, after all, it is problematical whether the strict temperance advocate who remains faithful, even during the dog-days, to ginger-beer and lemonade, does not run as much risk of poisoning himself as the frequenters of public-houses. The various forms of lemonade, which are so often preferred to ginger-beer, present the same dangers, and may at times be productive of considerable mischief.

The present generation of street vendors have had, however, to compete against the great wholesale manufacturers, who employ the powerful aid of steam. The soda- water, lemonade, &c., produced in these large factories has at least the advantage of being clean, though often impregnated with lead.
A most experienced ginger-beer maker, a man who had served in the Indian army, and was accustomed to brew for his entire regiment, explained to me how he lost one of his best customers. He sold to a public-house keeper near London Bridge, about half-a-gross per week. On one occasion, while delivering his usual supply to the publican, there happened to be four gentlemen drinking ginger-beer at the bar, who noticed him. On leaving the public-house, these gentlemen passed by the barrow, on which his glasses and bottles were laid out to attract pedestrians. They had just paid fourpence a glass for the ginger-beer they had seen this man deliver over to the publican; and on tasting what he sold in the street for a penny, discovered it was precisely the same brew. Every one knows, who reflects on the subject, that the ginger-beer publicans sell for fourpence is not worth a halfpenny a bottle; but when these extortionate charges are rendered so apparent to the victims, they are apt to produce an irritating effect. Hence the gentlemen in question returned to the public-house, expressed their discontent in terms more forcible than elegant, and the publican was not a little disconcerted when it was conclusively proved before his assembled customers, that he realized more than three hundred per cent. on the sale of ginger-beer-selling bottles at fourpence which he had bought from a poor man for three farthings! This demonstration produced, however, a disastrous effect, so far as the ginger-beer seller was concerned. The publican, in a fury, not only refused to buy any more beer from him, but would not even return his empty bottles. The ginger-beer man was therefore compelled to take out a summons to recover his empty bottles, but I am pleased to add that the magistrate expressed his sentiments in strong terms, and compelled the publican to pay compensation for the time the ginger-beer seller had lost. Thus this publican ceased to patronize the street vendor, and, like the other members of his trade, ordered his supplies from the wholesale manufacturers, where he obtains the beer at the same price, if not cheaper, and does not run so much risk of being discovered in the extortions he practises.
The most fruitful ground for the sale of ginger-beer, lemonade, and the other summer drinks which can be conveyed on a barrow, is, undoubtedly, the open-air resorts, where on holidays crowds of people seek health and amusement. At Clapham Common - where the accompanying photograph was taken - Hampstead, Greenwich, Battersea Park, &c., &c., on a broiling summer's day, there is a great demand for light, refreshing drinks, and more than £1 may be taken during one day by those who have a sufficient supply of ginger-beer with them, or some friend who can bring a fresh stock in the course of the afternoon. In ordinary times, however, twenty shillings a week net profit is considered a very fair reward for selling ginger-beer in the streets.
Apart from the very hot days, and the pleasure-grounds around the metropolis, the best time and place for the sale is near the closed public-houses on a Sunday morning. The enormous number of persons who have spent their Saturday evening and wages in getting lamentably drunk, come out in the morning with their throats parched, and are glad of anything that will relieve the retributive thirst from which they suffer.
Ginger-beer, under these circumstances, is particularly effective in restoring tone and mitigating the consequences of intemperance; and these are facts which readily account for the large sales effected on Sunday mornings. Even this phase of the business is, however, barely to be relied upon in the winter months; but, as it is an ill wind that blows nobody good, what the itinerary ginger-beer dealer loses, the street vendor of umbrellas gains. Thus we have before us two men who interpret the weather in a diametrically opposed sense. Every shower clouds the brow of the man whose income depends on the consumption of the summer drinks, while rain brings business and money to the seller of umbrellas. These latter are divided into various classes, and work according to the degree of capital they possess.
The real "mush-fakers" are men who not only sell, but can mend and make umbrellas. Wandering from street to street, with a bundle of old umbrellas and a few necessary tools under their arm, they inquire for umbrellas to mend from house to house. When their services are accepted, they have two objects in view. First, having obtained an umbrella to mend, they prefer sitting out doing the work in the street, in front of the house. This attracts the attention of the neighbours, and the fact that they have been entrusted with work by the inhabitants of one house generally brings more custom from those who live next door. When the job is terminated, the "mush-faker" looks about him, as he enters the house, in quest of an umbrella which has passed the mending stage; and, in exchange for the same, offers to make a slight reduction in his charge. Thus he gradually obtains a stock of very old umbrellas, and by taking the good bits from one old "mushroom and adding it to an other, he is able to make, out of two broken and torn umbrellas, a tolerably stout and serviceable gingham."
Tanto fue el interés que despertaban estas bebidas producidas a mediados del siglo XIX, que aquel fermento casero llamó fuertemente la atención a unos de los científicos más afamados de la época, HARRY MARSHALL WARD, y decidió de este modo hacer una primera indagación con metodología científica del primer probiótico estudiado en la historia:
"In the middle eighties the organism known as the ginger beer plant came into special notice. Many botanists received specimens with requests for information regarding it.
As you know, the plant consists of lumps of gelatinous substance, which has been long in use in country districts for the manufacture of home-made ginger beer. When the gelatinous lumps are placed in a saccharine solution with some bits of ginger in a bottle, a fermentation is set up which results in the liquor so commonly used.
Mythical histories attached to the origin of the gelatinous mass―brought ­from the Crimea, Italy, and so on—and the plant handed on from family to family. In 1887 the plant came to Professor Marshall Ward, and he began an investigation—one which ultimately extended over several years.
The outcome of it was that the ginger beer plant was shown to be composed of two essential ingredient, plants, with several others present as accessory non-essential forms. Of the essential, one is a bacterium, B. verniforme, a distinct species, the gelatinous sheaths of which make up the jelly of the ginger beer plant. The other is a yeast, Sacharomyces pyriforme, also a distinct species, to which the alcoholic fermentation is due. Not only was this determined by analysis, but also by synthesis.
Further, the research led to the development of a new conception in that of symbiotic fermentation, i.e. the bacterium is favoured by obtaining some substance or substances directly they leave the sphere of metabolic activity of the yeast cells. The yeast, on the other hand, benefits by these substances being removed and destroyed, and amongst these the C02, which seems to be essential for the bacterium. (A comparison with the symbiosis of a gelatinous lichen naturally suggests itself.) This idea of symbiotic as compared with metabiotic, where one organism prepares only the ground for another, and antibiotic, where one organism ousts the other by poisoning the medium, is a fertile one.

I now come to speak of an investigation the labour of which would have daunted most men. I refer to that of the bacteriology of Thames water. This he undertook for the Royal Society in 1892, in conjunction with Professor Percy Frankland. The actual bacteriological part of the work was taken up by Marshall Ward himself. For work of this kind he was well prepared, having already published his views upon the characters employed in the classification of Schizomy­cetes. It is difficult for an outsider to realise the industry, the constant attention, required for this bacteriological work.
It involved the isolation and growing through all their life ­stages in pure culture of the many forms met with in the water and then the determination of their several capacities whether these made for health or disease in the user of the water containing them. But it was the kind of work in which Marshall Ward reveled. Such of the results as are published in the Reports of the Royal Society are compendious and thorough With his characteristic intuition, Marshall did not fail to follow up clues that might lead to framing a general conclusion, and one of the most valuable products of this bacteriological work was his demonstration that light arrests development of the bacteria and ultimately kills them. This was no more than might be expected, and had indeed been vaguely forestated.
But Marshall Ward went further, and by an elaborate series of experiments proved beyond question that the bactericidal action lay in the blue region of the spectrum. As a side issue the question of colour in bacteria in its relation to the action of light was a subject investigation, and its parasolar value was demonstrated. The line of work initiated by this discovery Marshall Ward had proposed to follow up through other processes of the vegetable kingdom, but had not accomplished this at time of his death.

The references that have been made will suffice to indicate the extent and far-reaching character of Marshall Ward’s work in Mycology, and one cannot but feel assured they establish his claim to be reckoned one of the great investigators of our time, who has not only added to sum of knowledge, but opened up new avenues to further victories over the unknown. "