Monday, February 1, 2010

An Ode to My Favorite Beverage

I remember my first cup of coffee. I was three. Mattie, my nanny, always had her tea at 4:30 in the afternoon, only she didn't actually have tea; she had coffee. Just the first of a myriad of Southern ironies we take as they come along. Wanting to be like a grownup, I begged and pleaded, and finally she acquiesced, granting my wish in the form of barely a drop of coffee in a demitasse cup with warm milk and a tad of sugar.

Of course I wasn't addicted then and could take it or leave it, truly happy in the fact that I was having tea with the grownups, not that I had a cup of jo in my hand.

My next tryst with coffee was during my teen years when my dad and I would drink it together. I suppose I was still the little girl wanting to be like the grownups because I took mine black just like he did. That first sip was a doozy. I had to concentrate not to screw up my face in a grimace. But I decided that if I was going to drink this brew, I might as well do it correctly and enjoy the nuances of flavor and depth instead of masking it with cream and sugar. And anyway, who knew when cream or sugar would be available?

I like my coffee like I like my men: hot, strong, bitter and rich. Mike likes HIS coffee blonde and sweet, which makes me wonder why he likes me.

So Mom gave me a fancy pants coffee maker for Christmas when I was 16. Sure, she received a few odd looks, but I was thrilled. At this point I had been hooked for a while and limping along with our old percolator. That coffee maker ranks right up there with the Nintendo.

Over the years coffee and I have begun the morning together in all sorts moods and all sorts of settings all over the world. One Mardi Gras morning I had awesome coffee with a corn dog for breakfast on the corner of Julia and St. Charles. We have drunk coffee on the beach with toes in the sand. Coffee accompanied me at a sidewalk cafe for breakfast in Wyoming. I have endured Yankee "newspaper coffee," so named because it's so weak you can read the newspaper through it in a clear cup. And Mayan coffee and I did the salsa in Quintana Roo.

Most recently Mike and I had coffee while bumping along in Europe. It was both indulgence and a delicious way to stay awake for all that partying. Reminds me of what my friend Matt always used to say:

But it hasn't all been fun and games with my friend coffee. The first time Mike took me to Florida to meet his parents, nobody told me they drink "half-caff." Half-caff? What in the world is that? It didn't make sense to me. Completely unconscionable. On the Fourth of July, the fourth day we were there, Mike and I were sitting on a beautiful lakeside dock, watching beautiful fireworks. My head on his shoulder. Beautiful, sweet, loving moment. I mentioned that my head had been hurting a lot that afternoon and wondered aloud if it was all the water that found its way up my nose when I was trying to learn how to ski. THEN Mike mentioned the half-caff. My response?

Give me the keys to the truck and point me to the nearest grocery store. Now.

I'm not kidding. We went that night to get me come Cokes, chocolate, and those little coffee singles. I put one in with my cup of half-caff to supplement my caffeine addiction. His side of the story makes me sound a lot more mean.

Addiction is not pretty. There have been mornings at fish camp in which I filter the grounds with paper towels. Or a clean sock. Or sometimes nothing at all. Oh yes, I have been there. That desperation to have your first fix and then everything will be OK. Or getting out of bed on a Sunday morning because the headache tells you to. Slowly but surely, I have outgrown having that monkey on my back.

So about a month ago I decided to shake it off. For Mike's sake I have done it gradually with what I like to call the "scoop method." I used to take four scoops regular in our four-cup French press. So for about a week I took three scoops regular, one scoop decaf, then two and two, then one regular and three decaf, down to four decaf. I haven't had a fully caffeinated beverage since Thursday, January 14. Where's my chip?

And Mike is still fully intact.

But what is a French press, you ask? Only the best damn way to fix a cup in my humble opinion. And I have 16 years of experience.

Pull out the plunger and the attached top. Put coffee in the glass carafe - one Tablespoon per cup. Boil water in a tea kettle and pour that on top of the loose ground coffee, then put the top on with the plunger up. Let it steep for at least 3-4 minutes, slowly push down the plunger, and enjoy.

If I can do it before I've even had a cup, then you can do it. Believe me.

It's inexpensive, it doesn't require filters, and probably the best part is that you can clean it in the dishwasher and fully sanitize everything. You could put this baby in an autoclave for Pete's sake. That's important because the materials that actually touch your coffee in the brewing process can affect the taste. The fact that only very clean glass and the stainless steel filter comes into contact with the coffee makes for a better brew. And I like knowing there aren't any creepy-crawlies hanging out in some intricate coffee maker tubing.

Even though I have kicked the caffeine habit, I still do love my coffee. Currently my favorite is Peet's. Decaf, of course. Who would have ever believed it?

Photos courtesy of (in no particular order) Peet's,,, Williams-Sonoma, GourmetGal, ScienceBlogs,,


Jess said...

Cute Post! I'm currently a 4 cup in the AM, 2 cup in the PM kind of girl. Hmmm...come to think of it, some coffee would be good about now.... :O)


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