When growing up -- and growing up is something one cannot help but do -- my fam used to stay at Daylesford in Victoria.
Loverly town. Know it well...because we used to stay there on holiday in what was then referred to as 'guest houses'.
Staying in Daylesford was my father's penchant -- as was his father's before him as he used to take his family there on holiday too in the same guest house. So two generations of Rileys holidayed in Daylesford and got to know it well: the lakes, Wombat Hill, the old gold diggings and the district's mineral waters.
Ah, the aqua minerale!
Each day spent in Daylesford had to begin with a walk (a walk up and down its rolling hills was required if you wanted to get anywhere locally) to the springs and in succession you had to taste your way up the rise above the main lake by drinking at one pump after another .
Savour the mineral content and appreciate the effervescence.
After rain the fizz went down a bit and the mineral content was diluted -- but always there was enough of everything to create that tasty zing.
For youngsters, such as I, part of the fun of 'taking the waters' was working the pumps. It was exciting to work the handle to build a gusher that drew water from rock. Some sites unfortunately were dugouts and the mineral waters gushed or dribbled out of the walls along rusty pipes. It was like drinking from leaky plumbing in an aged toilet block.
And always: you had to visit the springs with your own drinking vessel. Either that or you were forced to drink from your cupped hands.
Each spring had a name that signalled its mineral blend. My favorite was 'Sulphur' as I found the sulphur taste appealing although every spring had sulphur and the dugouts smelt of its gas. But then taste preferences are going to vary and for the aficionado, Hepburn Springs was always thought to be the best of the local spring hubs.
Of course, it was supposed to do us all a heap of good if you drank it. My grandfather used to get sealed clamped metal containers of the stuff sent regularly from Daylesford to his home in Glen Iris by train as he was convinced of its therapeutic promise.
Later on when my father took us farther afield, if we were driving in any region of Victoria and a sign said,'mineral spring' -- we'd always detour 'to take the waters'.
While spring generated mineral water is today readily available from any supermarket, it wasn't until the late sixties and early seventies that the Hepburn stuff was bottled and marketed broadly. For a time there effervescent mineral water took off as a mixer and health drink but no way near the level that still waters have established a niche as the bottled water market has today.
Then it wasn't about 'purity' but content: you drank the stuff for the minerals that were suspended in the water. If you were offered instead a bland water with neither effervescence nor self evident mineralization you'd not bother with drinking it and demand your money back
You'd drink from a tap instead. The notion of drinking bottled clear water being, at the time, an absurdity.
(Anyway, enough of background reminiscences....)
I've just started back drinking mineral water and am loving the stuff. As a spritzer in wine or straight or as a mix with cold green tea ... there is a lot you can do with the stuff.
The word spritzer comes from the German spritzen "spatter, squirt, spray, sprinkle", i.e. adding water and thus diluting the wine so that it can be consumed in larger, thirst-quenching amounts. The obsessive habit is to brew the green tea on mineral water but I use my preferred green tea tipple as a cordial instead.
Today, there are so many bottled (usually still) mineral waters available that they can be catalogued according to comparative mineral content. See this maybe outdated Australian list of 60 brands here.
Like wine snobbery you can quaff and taste mineral water and make your own gourmet ruling -- but so long as there is an effervescence (often artificially added or enhanced) and a mix of minerals I'm easy. I don't rule on what minerals belong either.
I likem a bit of sulphur (as a Sulphate --SO4), as I say, but I'll drink whatever comes out of the earth...If included in the mix I muse that Lithium -- in the form of Lithium Carbonate (Li2C03) -- should keep me free of BiPolar Disorder if I was in line for a sudden attack of the manics.
Afterward: In 1974, friends and I were staying in the district as you could get there then by train and we camped out in an old church owned by a friend of a friend. So we cycled into 'town' and spent the afternoon at the springs. It was Sunday and the invasion of the watering place was full on with an overwhelming ethnic spread of picnickers -- from the Greek and Italian community mainly -- eating and amusing themselves on the lawns. Glorious Autumn day...and one of the groups had a traditional Greek style bagpipe player and so off he went squeezing and fingering so that the crowd could get up and dance. under the trees; with the sunlight filtering through the gums.... Magical. Then all of a sudden, around 4 o'clock, like some cycadian yearning, the music stopped and the crowd moved as one to the springs with an assortment of containers in hand and started filling them for the trip home in a collective exertion of organised labour. It was like a rite, an observance and celebration of the juices of the earth. When you pick up a plastic bottle of mineral water in the supermarket ... it doesn't quite have the same feeling about it.