Dear Dr. Boli: Why have Americans let lapse their knowledge of teas and wines? They seem to have become anti-snobs, if that is a thing. On TV, you can tell someone is drinking tea because the telltale tea bag tag is dangling from their mug. Also on TV shows, you see people having a conversation about wine that only asks them to decide between red and white, then they pour a large amount of wine into a giant glass. Are all Americans less subtle than they used to be? If so, how can we tell the difference? —Sincerely, Canadian in Canonsburg.
Dear Sir or Madam: It is true that Americans were once a very subtle people. When, therefore, did the people of North America lose their subtlety? Dr. Boli is of the opinion that it happened in 1607, when the first English colonists landed at Jamestown; but certain evidence that the Indian tribes south of Jamestown were already aware of both the whoopee cushion and the pie in the face may suggest that the so-called “Lost Colony” of Roanoke might already have polluted American culture several years before the arrival of the Jamestown settlers.
As for tea and wine, however, Dr. Boli, whose memory is rather longer than the average citizen’s, is not convinced that Americans ever had much knowledge of them. Consider this wine list from 1870:
Note that the American of 1870 was willing to pay $2.25 for a “Bogen’s Seedling Dry Catawba,” but only a dollar and a half for a Saint-Julien from Bordeaux. Without unduly disparaging native American grapes, Dr. Boli would say that this pricing does not indicate an extraordinarily well developed taste in wine.