Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is the sluggard to those who send him.
– Proverbs 10:26
To some modern people this proverb is purely metaphorical. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
In fairness, I would imagine that many (if not most) folk have experienced smoke in their eyes at some point, unless RV camping has become so prevalent as to eradicate the experience entirely. However, up until a few years ago, I don’t think I was aware that anyone voluntarily consumed vinegar apart from sald dressing, much less raw and for its alleged health benefits. And yet here I am, duly taking my daily dosage of 2 teaspoons (more or less) of apple cider vinegar on a daily basis.
Let me explain some things about this stuff, apple cider vinegar. These things will be nothing but entirely factual, being drawn from my vast experience and knowledge of the human condition. Firstly, I’m pretty sure the “apple cider” portion of the name was tacked on by marketers. Perhaps the resulting product once upon a time had something to do with apples, but I regret to inform you it has nothing to do with apples anymore, nor cider. This stuff is vinegar.
I am informed that vinegar is useful for a variety of things. Reader’s Digest, for instance, has a helpful list of 150 Household Uses for Vinegar which range from clearing clogged drains to cleaning concrete off your skin. There’s no denying the lamentable fact that this diet is unclogging some drains, loosely speaking, but I would not previously have chalked this dubious benefit up to apple cider vinegar. Note that even Reader’s Digest in its extensive list, however, does not suggest it as suitable for digestion; all of its focus seems to be on cleaning, disinfecting, or deodorizing things. And while I admit that at times I am disagreeably odiferous, voluntarily ingesting a cleaning product would heretofore have never suggested itself to my mind as a viable remedy–at least not a remedy lacking certain undesirable side effects of a permanent nature.
Then there’s the curious issue of motherhood. All the “best” apple cider vinegar advertises it as “with the ‘mother’”. Make a special note of the quotation marks; they are sic. I don’t exactly have wide exposure to brands, but the two I’ve seen (Bragg and Heinz) both put that word in quotes. I’m not sure exactly what they mean by this, but I don’t like any of the possibilities. For one thing, it reminds me that the kombucha quaffers also refer to the large chunky mass of mold in their drink as the “mother”. (Recall: kombucha is the stuff that looks something like tea that’s been sitting on the counter for about seven months too long. I’ve never had any because I don’t eat moldy things whenever I can help it.) Depending on which brand of vinegar you like to believe in, they have different descriptions of this “mother”. Heinz rather conservatively refers to it as “a compound created naturally during vinegar’s fermentation process”, whereas Bragg goes further to describe it as “amazing” and occurring “naturally as a connected strand-like chains of protein enzyme molecules”. (As a sidenote, the adjective “natural” conveys no meaning to me, positive or negative. Botulism is natural, Pillsbury biscuits aren’t, and that just goes to show you.) All in all, I would like to keep ancestry out of my cleaning products.
I have special objections to the Bragg vinegar. Not for anything about the vinegar itself necessarily, but rather the “guilt by association” of being sold by supremely strange people. On my barometer of friendliness toward any given product, something sold by someone billing himself as a “Life Extension Specialist” wins the default prejudice of “snake oil” and will have to earn its way back from there. Using your label as a way to push copies of your vegetarian cookbook, promising healthy life to 120, is another strike. And lastly, anyone who describes apple cider vinegar as adding a “healthy, delicious flavor” to anything is surely lying through his vinegar-smitten teeth.
Heinz isn’t exactly the paragon of truth in advertising either (they do, after all, claim that their product is “sure to please”, directly contradicted by my personal experience), but at least their packaging communicates pretty clearly what their goal is: “We’re here to make money. We may not know why you want this stuff, but here it is. Pay us the money.” At least, that’s what it says to me.
So here I am, consuming acid every day in the vile form of apple cider vinegar, just to disprove the claims that it will heal me of my woes and restore my youthful vigor. Make no mistake – if it does do these things, I will be just and express a proper degree of gratitude to ‘mother’ and my wife and all the crazy things she reads on the Internet. But I will not stoop to liking the stuff. The proverb’s intent is to teach us about sluggards, but it also says something about vinegar.