wretched but better
in general, than used to be
some progress on earth
As you might have guessed I am talking about instant coffee.
As luck would have it, the Late Great Jim Harrison used these words to describe instant coffee.
Of late I have discovered the foil tubes of Café Bustelo and find that I agree with Mr. Harrison that while still not quite coffee, instant coffee is better than it used to be and shows some progress.
I have long tried all means of making just ONE CUP of coffee.
From instant to the drip funnels that sit on top of a cup to kuerig and while of these had made progress, nothing is as good as I remember the coffee that my Mom’s old Hamilton Beach percolator made.
It might be memory but that is my gold standard and I have tried everything to make that coffee.
It the right moment, I can smell it.
From what I have read, trying to match anything to a memory is a losing game.
But I try.
Why is it so hard to get a hot, rich single cup of coffee at home with a minimum of fuss.
As I started to write this, I tried to remember how and when it was that I started drinking coffee.
Coffee from the a percolator at our house was only made on the occasion of guests in the house.
At some point the coffee maker showed up and we got one of those but I had been drinking coffee long before that.
I know I was heavily influenced by my reading.
In the book, The Good Shephard, which by the way is a REALLY good book and I wish Tom Hanks had had a chance to read it before he made a movie supposedly based on it, the hero, Captain Krause, is a coffee nut.
Captain Krause drinks not cup after cup, but pot after pot of strong hot BLACK coffee.
Late in the book with some coffee still in the pot, he offers a cup to the officer of deck.
The OD pours a cup and then adds cream and sugar to “reveal the type of man he was.”
Then there were the Hornblower Books.
A series of novels on the life of Horatio Hornblower, a British naval officer during the wars with Napoleon.
Coffee is a theme throughout the 11 books from Hornblower’s first taste as a mishipman to complaining how the late the coffee was brought it his office when he was an Admiral.
Hornblower thought just too hot to drink was not hot enough and he sweetened his coffee to a syrup with cream and spoons of sugar.
The odd aspect to these literary pictures of how to drink coffee is that both of them were written by C. S. Forestor.
Somewhere along the line for some reason, I started drinking coffee.
About that time Maxim freeze dried coffee came on the market and my Dad starting having it around the house.
My Dad also was in on the search for a good single cup of coffee but he was primarily a tea drinker but had many a conversation of one cup coffee makers.
The google says Maxim came out in the 70’s so I must have started drinking it when I was 12 or 13.
And from time to time I would have a cup of coffee.
With lots of sugar and some milk for color but that is when it started.
That’s also when my Dad noticed an odd phenomena.
One Sunday afternoon when I was getting on everyone’s nerves just being more or less myself, my Dad called me into the kitchen.
He had made me a cup of coffee and he told me to sit down and drink it.
My Mom watched this and then gestured my Dad into the next room.
I could hear them talking and the gist of it was that my Mom wanted to know what in the world Dad was doing getting caffeine into my system when I was already driving everyone nuts.
Dad told Mom to just watch me.
He said he wasn’t sure why but he had noticed that when I drank coffee, I calmed down a bit.
He said maybe it was just that it was so hot that I had to be careful (when I was 9 I had managed to spill a tea kettle of boiling water all over my legs but that is another story) and being careful I calmed down.
Or that I would usually prop a book up in front me while I drank and that always seemed to slow me down for a bit as I ventured off into other worlds.
For some reason, my Dad said, it worked.
And it did.
Even though I heard them and knew I was being played, I still drank the coffee and for whatever reason I was better for it.
Often after that, both my parents recommended I take a time out for coffee now and then.
That may even have been the reason we got a Mr. Coffee at home now that I think about it.
So began my coffee habit.
For a good part of my life, I had a pot of coffee in the morning and another at lunch and another after dinner.
Over the years I have had to cut back and now I am down to 2 or 3 cups to start my day and the random cup of instant in the afternoon.
As the Devine One, Sarah Vaughn sang:
I walk the floor and watch the door
And in between I drink
Sarah Vaughn was once asked why she was called the Devine One.
“Ella Fitzgerald said so,” was the reply and as they say, nuff said.
So me and coffee.
Waiter, Waiter, percolator.
The search for a single good cup of hot coffee at home continues.
It is still wretched but in general better.
There is some progress in the world.
As a post script, years later our first son started Kindergarten.
At his first conference, the teacher described him as well you know, one of those kids with an ‘active bottom.’
He was always in motion.
We talked with the teacher about whether or not he needed something like well, what was it called, Ritalin?
The teacher did not want to make and calls or judgments but she gave us this tip.
The next time he was really really active, try giving him the soda pop called Mountain Dew she said.
With most kids, the caffine would rev them right up.
But, she said, a kid who might be a Ritalin candidate, the caffeine in the pop will calm them right down.
I didn’t say anything at the time.
But I sure did think about it over my next cup of coffee.