I've been inspired by a piece Judith Warner wrote in the NYTimes last week: a blog post that started out as an essay on her love for coffee, transformed into a tracing of her life through memories involving the brew, and ended up saying a lot more about growing up, loss and childhood, and about the hurried times in which we live. There's something to be said for a warm, welcoming pot of coffee in a home. It's different from the impersonal bustling of coffee shops, instead creating a sense of place and a feeling of timelessness.
I discovered coffee (and by discovered, I mean the cannot-live-without-you-nor-imagine-how-I-did-before-meeting-you kind of love that most reserve for other human beings) last summer in NY. I had always loved the creamy, sugary espresso drinks offered at Starbucks and other standard coffee houses--my sweet tooth is not discriminate-- but could never get into the straight-up brewed coffee thing. The smell of coffee I always loved; my earliest memory of it is riding in my friend's mother's car on the way to Moultrie Middle School (which is now a pile of rubble I found out on a recent trip home) every morning. She always had a travel mug of the best-smelling flavored coffee. I almost looked forward to early-morning rides to school for that fact.
I forget when or how, but I realized that with enough cream and sugar, even a weak cup of coffee can be made tolerable, and is a much cheaper alternative than a $4.00 cappuccino. And perhaps this is psychosomatic, but an espresso drink accelerates my heart rate and gives me the jitters so bad it scares me, while a cup or two of regular coffee does the trick without giving me palpitations. Anyway, this summer, leaving my apartment at 7am to ride the subway for a 1/2 hour I always grabbed a cup of coffee from the Nascent on the corner of my 'hood in Brooklyn; that is until I realized I could get a delicious cup from the bodega after I emerged in Bed-Stuy for a buck cheaper, AND the cream and sugar were already mixed in. Perfect. (That's the laziness kicking in.)
As I'm getting older (I'm pushin' 24 now...phew! (kidding)) I think I'll one day make it to the pure cafe noir, sans cream or sugar. Mostly because I want to be like my dad, who shakes his head and with a knowing gesture (like the gesturing Warner speaks of) refuses any additives offered to him by a stranger. I like to imagine him in the early mornings when I was younger, when he would be up before everyone else in the house (we're talking like, 3-4am early, since he worked 1st shift and was home by 3 to pick us up from school), sitting in the yellow kitchen, probably reading the paper with a cup of coffee brewed in a pot I don't remember. Or nowadays as a retiree, starting his day the same way, albeit a few hours later, in a much bigger, state of the art kitchen (looking a little out of place among all that marble and stainless steel in his flannel and faded denim), always awake already when I stumble out of bed and into the kitchen on my visits home. Already sitting, drinking his black coffee over the paper, with the pot still on and warm, waiting for me.
"Sit, drink Your coffee here; your work can wait awhile..."
by: Vikram Seth
Sit, drink your coffee here; your work can wait awhile.
You're twenty-six, and still have some life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.
The world is too opaque, distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away