Prohibition in the United States came to a screeching halt on December 5, 1933. The repeal of Prohibition was accomplished when Franklin Roosevelt ratified the Twenty-first Amendment which, while lifting the absolute ban on the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol, also explicitly confirmed the right of states to restrict or ban its purchase or sale. This led to the cornucopia of laws that makes it possible for First Vine to ship wine to Alaska but not to Maryland and that makes it illegal to sit on a street corner in St Louis drinking beer out of a bucket.
In 1881, Kansas became the first state to outlaw alcoholic beverages in its Constitution, with Carrie Nation gaining notoriety for taking it upon herself to enforce the provision by walking into saloons, scolding customers, and using her hatchet to destroy bottles of liquor (sort of like that time in high school when your parents came home a day early from their trip upstate only to find …)! Many other states, especially in the South, also enacted prohibition, along with many individual counties. Over the years, pressure slowly mounted from the temperance movement, until finally the United States Senate proposed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 18, 1917, which was not actually effected until January 16, 1920.
While the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol was illegal in the U.S., Section 29 of the amendment allowed the making at home of wine and cider from fruit. An individual could make up to 200 gallons per year (!), and many vineyards grew grapes for home use. So, as you can imagine, large numbers of people began making their own wine at home. To meet the booming demand for grape juice, California grape growers increased their land use about 700% during the first five years of prohibition. The juice was commonly dehydrated, compressed, then sold in “bricks” (aka “solidified merriment”)! The bricks came with a stern warning: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, DO NOT place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.” Pure genius. There is a great passage in Eddie Condon’s, We Called It Music: A Generation of Jazz. Mr. Condon writes, “Wine bricks were the great flop of prohibition: the essence of the grape was compressed for you in a package no bigger than a bar of soap; you took it home and made yourself the worst drink in the world.”
Wine bricks may have been the great flop of Prohibition, but as we all know, they were not the only flop. By the time Prohibition ended, even some of its most ardent advocates were admitting it was a spectacular failure. Wealthy – and “dry” – industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., stated in a letter:
“When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.”
By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the Great Depression was in full swing. If there was ever a time the country really needed a drink, well, this would be it. So to celebrate on December 5th, we’re giving you a typical menu from the 1930’s with recipes: Boston Baked Beans, brown Bread with Butter, and Picallili (aka pickled vegetables). Serve this with one of our sturdy everyday reds, both thrifty AND delicious!
- 2 cups navy beans
- 1/2 pound bacon
- 1 onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup molasses
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 or 2 teaspoons spicy mustard
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- * if you’re a ketchup or barbecue sauce fan; go ahead and add about ¼ cup of either
- Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion.
- In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
- Bake for 3 to 4 hours or so in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. You almost cannot overcook them as long as you tend them. Occasionally stir the beans, turning the contents over from top to bottom. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.