There are some things in life we just take for granted, aren’t there?
Like picking up a spoon to eat our breakfast cereal. Grabbing a knife when we need to cut something up?
Or how about a drinking straw with which to sip our cool beverages?
Just simple things!
Straws have gone a bit out of fashion in recent times ... plastic straws having been identified as possible pollutants. These days, of course, we're encouraged to use the biodegradable kind and lots of different types of drinking straws are being created as alternatives.
But did you know that the modern drinking straw was patented today – Jan 3rd in 1888 – by an American inventor called Marvin C. Stone?
He was originally in the cigar making industry but came up with an idea to wrap paper around a pencil and apply thick layers of glue to make a drinking straw. Bit by bit, the process was refined to ensure the straws would survive even strong alcoholic beverages. He created an automated machine to produce the straws and they proved instantly popular.
But drinking straws go back much further, and some take us back actually to more biodegradable options.
Over 5,000 years ago the ancient Sumerians used straws made from gold and lapis lazuli, a precious stone, to sip beer. Sumer was in Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq and Kuwait, and archaeologists have discovered drinking straws in the ruins of cities and tombs dating back to 3000 BC. And it appears that even earlier versions which preceded those had been crafted in wood or from hollow plants. Told you - biodegradable!
Meanwhile, in Argentina in South America, there’s evidence that natives also used drinking straws made from wood for several thousand years. Later they developed devices made from metal called "bombilla".
By the 1800s in the USA, the trend for drinking through cheap, easily produced rye grass straws took off, but they were prone to turning to mush when left in liquid for any length of time. Cue Mr Marvin C Stone!
It’s easy to forget that sometimes even the simple things in life come after much hard work and testing by pioneers who have come before us. We take for granted the freedoms that most of us enjoy, forgetting the sacrifices that might have been involved to get us to this point.
As we step out into a new year, let us stop to think about the people in our lives who have brought us to this point. Those who have shaped us, who perhaps gave up things and gave something of themselves, including talents, intellect, imagination and expertise, so that WE might have the lives we enjoy today.