VIII: Zinc

Without zinc, Paris would never have had cafés.

octidi, the 28th of Nivôse, Year CCXXXI
A copper-coated zinc penny. Photo by Adam Nir / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is octidi, the 28th of Nivôse, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le zinc, the metal of life.

Zinc is the fuel our immune system runs on. It doesn't take a lot of the metal to work, but without it, our ability to create white blood cells and heal wounds is severely compromised. Other symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of smell, hair loss, and depression. The good news is you have to work very hard to not eat zinc, since it's in meat, beans, and cereal. 

In Paris during the Belle Epoque, you could meet someone at the zinc.

Zinc had long been an important metal for galvanizing metal roofs to keep them from rusting, but as the mining industry led to the (somewhat late) industrialization of Paris and France during the century after the Revolution, zinc became a ubiquitous material.

In addition to roofs, it was often used on countertops at the cafés, and thus becoming synonymous with café life, which was itself becoming synonymous with Parisian culture. "Rendezvous au zinc," just meant, essentially, to meet at the local pub.