Vinegar Essay, Research Paper


Chris Nacey Writing 101 Final draft 2-19-1997

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother.

She liked to cook and so did I. Because of this, I learned my way around the

kitchen. I knew the place for everything, and I knew the uses of most

everything. There was only one paradox, in my knowledge of the kitchen: vinegar.

My mother had one bottle of vinegar for as long as I can remember. She never

used it in cooking, or taught me how to for that matter. Our bottle of White

Wine Vinegar sat in our cupboard: on the bottom shelf, enigmatically, untouched,

detached. I knew that my mother wouldn’t have it without reason. It was in the

kitchen, so I concluded that it must be some sort of, rarely used, cooking

staple. I would never have guessed then that vinegar had so many uses.

Just the other day, I was in the mall visiting a friend that works at

Frankincense and Myrrh. While there, I happened upon some bottles that caught

my eye. They were attractive looking ornamental bottles. Each one was filled

with mysterious, colored liquids: the colors varied from red to brown to yellow.

In the liquids were berries’, sprigs of herbs, and things of the such. I

thought they looked interesting, so I picked up a bottle that I recognized as

having sage in it. I took a look at the label. On the label were listed the

ingredients: sage, rosemary, and southernwood leaves. When I read the front of

the bottle, I was surprised to find that I was looking at an herbal vinegar hair

rinse. Before this I never knew that such a thing existed. After my experience

at the mall, I became aware that vinegar didn’t just belong in the kitchen.

This intrigued me. I decided to find out more about vinegar and its uses.

Nobody knows the exact origins of vinegar, but there are many stories

and beliefs surrounding this strange liquid.(Oster 3) The Roman Army was

recorded to have mixed vinegar with water to make a sort of Gatorade for the

soldiers. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century United States, similar

drinks known as “shrubs” or “switchels” were made by field laborers. To make

these drinks, they mixed either fruit juices or water, with sometimes salt, and

fruit-flavored vinegars.(Oster 4) The earliest recorded use of vinegar, however,

was in Babylonia around 5,000 B.C. There, it was typically made from dates, and

commonplace as a medicine.(Oster 3)

Throughout history, vinegar has been used medicinally. Via modern

science we know vinegar to have antibacterial and antiseptic properties.(Oster

5) But before the convenience of laboratory analysis, Hippocrates (commonly

called the father of medicine) recommended vinegar to his patients. One such

recommendation was a vinegar, honey, and pepper douche for “feminine

disorders.”(Oster 5) Folklore has it that during a plague epidemic in

Marseilles, four robbers drenched themselves with what is now known as “Four

Thieves Vinegar.” In doing so, legend say that they were able to pilfer the

diseased and deceased without getting infected themselves.(Geddes) In the Civil

War, vinegar was issued to counter scurvy. More recently, in World War I,

vinegar was commonly accepted as treatment for wounds.(Oster 5)

Other more modern medicinal uses for vinegar also exist. A mixture of

apple cider vinegar and water, if used properly, can help reduce acne

problems.(Geddes) A similar solution has been known to help with indigestion if

taken regularly.(Oster 42) Cold apple cider vinegar can also help relieve the

pain of sunburns.(Geddes)

Vinegar also has many uses around the house. Because vinegar is acidic

by nature, it is very useful for a spectrum of cleaning uses and other tasks.

Vinegar is relatively inexpensive and, by comparison to the mass-produced toxic

chemical cleaners, potent. For most home uses, one would usually dilute the

vinegar in water. A one gallon bottle of apple cider vinegar could replace a

whole box full of harmful chemicals found littering the common home. Vinegar

can both remove stains from wooden furniture and act as polish.(Oster 33) When

your drain gets clogged, you don’t need to buy the toxic liquid plumber. You

can pour a handful of baking soda down the drain, add a half a cup of vinegar,

and then cover the opening for five to ten minutes. Doing this will unclog your


I have found several innovative uses for vinegar. The uses listed here

are only a few of the many that exist. After learning about them, I have found

ways to save money and be enviromentally safe at the same time. I still don’t

know exactly why my mother kept vinegar in her kitchen; maybe she was just

trying to save the world from harmful pollutants. I do, however, see numerous

reasons for me to keep it in mine.

Works Cited

Geddes, Lynn. Personal Interview. Washington. 14 February, 1997. Oster, Maggie.

Herbal Vinegar. Vermont: Storey, 1994.

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