By Bob Holeman
You run into folks who tell you that their day doesn’t start until they’ve had their second cup of coffee. You may be one of them. I don’t know if that’s a Southern thing or an American thing.
I’m not one. Now Diane has her cup every morning when she gets up way before I do and has a really light breakfast during her quiet time before I come lumbering out around 8 a.m., preparing for our daily walk. (Not today as I write. It rained). But she doesn’t need a second, though she may indulge in another cup with a friend later in the day.
I do enjoy the smell of a pot of coffee as it brews. Or the aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans in a specialty store. I particularly remember one day as we were walking through Whole Foods in Baton Rouge when my attention from whatever we sought was drawn away by that alluring coffee aroma. I searched it out and discovered their coffee section, where large burlap bags of various bean varieties stood together as an invitation to customers to scoop out a pound to take home.
Going back further in time, recall the large coffee grinders in the A&P Grocery stores where you’d custom-grind your own Ann Page or Eight O’Clock dark roast whole coffee beans? That was before my coffee-buying days so I never got to pull down that silver handle but the machine would catch my attention each time I passed by. That memory snapshot includes the coffee scent and the spilled coffee grounds that always managed to escape from the chute-to-bag process.
No, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a hot cup of coffee. In fact I do have one occasionally. It’s just not part of my “gotta have” morning routine.
When I did work at the newspaper, I attached the Baptist descriptive of “social drinker” to my own coffee consumption. When I attended the monthly Police Jury meetings, I’d often get a cup of coffee that I’d take back to the table they had set up for the press. I knew where the coffee pot stayed and if I was lucky, there would be some cookies, brownies or other sweet left over from their day. I had a tacit invitation to help myself.
Similarly, as I’d make my rounds of the Courthouse offices during the day, I’d inevitably end up with a cup of coffee from the Sheriff’s Office. It was not so much that I wanted the coffee as to have something in my hand as I was meeting people. No donuts or sweets were handy, unfortunately. They probably had a break room but I never found it and certainly didn’t have that tacit invitation.
Often when I go to the bank, I’ll get a cup and pour in a little of the invitingly brewed coffee. Again, not because I have a hankering for it but because it’s there.
When I do drink, I’m no purist. Sometimes I’ll drink it black, sometimes with sugar. Most often with cream and sugar. My brother is a purist: it’s got to be bold and fresh-brewed and it’s got to be black. Mine can be a milky, syrupy mix that has been sitting cold since yesterday morning. I can microwave it to heat.
Neither would he join in my latest which is ice coffee (usually a cup in the afternoon). I prepare a pot of seriously stout dark roast, allow it to cool them chill for later use. Depending on cup size, I’ll start with one or two packets of Splenda, add more Half & Half than should be allowed, fill with chilled coffee and finish with four cubes of ice. I’m not sure if that qualifies as coffee anymore.
In our early days of married life, we used the Southern traditional aluminum drip pot. Late on came the Mr. Coffee style coffee maker that would not only make a pot of coffee but keep it hot all day long. But with today’s expectation of immediacy, anyone can have a fresh-brewed mug right now with a Keurig coffee maker. Our daughter Laura gave one to Diane several years ago. At first I wasn’t sure about the cost per cup, compared to traditional brewing. Then I figured out that as little as we drink, considering the waste of coffee down the sink, this might be the best option after all. I watch for the store specials on Community Coffee.
This brings me to the point that actually triggered my thoughts for this column: coffee mugs. While we’ve handed down, donated and thrown away boxes of coffee mugs through our 46 years of married life, we still have more in the cupboard than we ever use. Myself, I have four I use regularly in rotation.
If I want a small cup, I use the small textured brown mug, hand-crafted by a fine Christian, Tom the Potter of Natchez to celebrate that city’s tri-centennial. A bigger thirst brings out the glazed moose & mountain scene on a large handleless mug by Montana Earth Pottery. Diane got it for me at Glacier National Park. In between is one titled “Daddy” that Laura brought back from a church choir trip to Santa Fe during her high school days. There’s another glazed mug I like showing a hare in the wild by Monroe (Maine) Salt Works. I came across this one in an antique shop.
Diane also has her regulars. Meanwhile favorites from the past remain in the back of the cupboard, rarely used but in no danger of being donated to Mount Grace: cobalt blue Rotary, set of four silver grey Louisiana Press Association, City of Winnfield, O’Kelley’s Coffee Mill, Mickey Mouse. Even an owl, the last surviving mug of a wedding gift set of six with two each frogs, butterflies and owls from Diane’s best college friend and roommate.
How about you? Is your cupboard overfilled with mugs or does it contain good memories? Why not grab one of your favorites and enjoy a cup of hot Java as you read the rest of the paper today?