Saturday, July 7, 2012

The grapes of wrath

Most of us are pretty familiar with John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the Grapes of Wrath, and it’s possible that a few of us may have even seen the 1940 movie, with the same title, starring Henry Fonda.

Most of us, including me, have forgotten that John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. His comments can be seen below:

meet Tom Joad’s inventor

Having said that, though, how many of us have actually wondered, “what exactly ARE the grapes of wrath?”. A partial clue can be found in the link below:

the story behind the story

When Steinbeck was finishing his novel, he was having trouble coming up with an appropriate title, and eventually selected “ Grapes of Wrath” at the suggestion of his wife.

The title is actually based on the Battle Hymn of the Republic, which was inspired by several verses in the Bible (Isaiah 63:2-3, Joel 3:2-13, and Revelations 14: 17-20.

Broadly speaking, the message of the “Grapes of Wrath” is one of deliverance, which applies very well to the Joad family of the 1930’s, as wall as numerous other families struggling with the Great Depression.

My parents were part of that large group of people who managed to survive some very tough times, and their story (and others) were captured by Bruce Springsteen in his famous song, roughly 50 years later:

The ghost of Tom Joad

However, this story isn’t about the grapes of wrath - it’s about the grapes … of Mass.

There are NUMEROUS reference in the Bible to the consumption of wine at various locations. For a lot of us, that isn’t much of a problem, but there ARE some folks who don’t believe in drinking alcoholic beverages. It’s easy to make grape juice, but without the preservative effects of alcohol, how can the resulting juice be preserved so that it doesn’t go bad?

The next time that you are in a church service, and you decide to drink Welch’s grape juice instead of wine, you may be interested to know that the grape juice was the creation of an Englishman named Thomas Welch, who died 4 days after Christmas, more than 100 years ago.

Welch and his family were members of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, an organization that did not believe in the consumption of alcohol. At the age of 19, Thomas Welch graduated from the seminary, and became a Wesleyan Methodist minister, a job that he likely would have held for a long time, except for one problem - he lost his voice.

He later became a physician, and started his practice in New York. For reasons lost to history, he decided to move to my old home state of Minnesota, and in 1856, he became a dentist.

Eight years later, he moved to New Jersey, where he started to work on a pasteurization process to better preserve the non-alcoholic juices that his church had been using up until that time. He finally found the right combination in 1869, and he slowly started to market “Welch’s grape juice” to local churches. The company that eventually became the Welch’s Grape Juice Company, however, really didn’t grow until his son Charles, also a dentist, got involved in it.

Despite the fact that the company (Welch Foods Inc.) now has sales approaching $700 million, Thomas Welch never received a penny for his investment.

The next time that you enjoy a little shot of Welch’s grape juice in church, you will likely be one of the few people at the service that knows that it came into being because an old Englishman had a sore throat - and the drink itself has a connection to the Flintstones.

1 comment:

  1. I think maybe the book "The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck" is a little bit better then the movie. But the movie is also superb. Ford and Honda - with great performance. The ending is somehow metaphorical. grapes … of Mass, I like this sentence