Did you start your Monday morning off with a cup (or three) of coffee? Did it make you “depressed and sarcastic”? That was the fear in 18th Century Paris, where there was great debate over the hot new caffeinated beverage. As Steve Shapin explains in Enlightenment: It’s What’s For Dinner:
In the 1780s, a Parisian critic condemned “the black water” that is consumed at the café as “more harmful than the generous wine on which our fathers got drunk,” making men depressed and sarcastic. Coffee might cause weight loss and dysentery; what was beneficial wakefulness to some was pathological overstimulation to others, raising the risk of nervous disease. Voltaire’s physician tried in vain to wean him from the 40-cup habit: the spread of hot drinks in general, the doctor claimed, was causing physical and mental degeneracy. Of all people, those living the life of the mind had the most reason to avoid coffee.
Get all the Enlightenment food facts over at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Depressed and sarcastic? Yes, but energetically so. Thanks, coffee!!!