Damn! I read the Saturday post from our Ravenswood bureau chief Caren Jeskey and berated myself with: "Why didn't I think of that?" The only thing to do is to wait a respectful period of time—weeks? months?—and then dive into my own complicated relationship with the piping hot brown nectar of the gods. Until then, her report:
Dedicated, in gratitude, to my parents.
Coffee has been a constant companion throughout my life and I know just why it's sometimes called "the poor man's gold." From before I was born, our house welcomed each day with the sound of a percolator, which was later replaced by the wheezes and gurgles of a good old drip machine.
For some of us, there are few things as satisfying as the sound of coffee brewing. Well, maybe the pleasure of pouring hot water from the tip of a gooseneck kettle in concentric circles over fresh grounds, and letting them bloom as they release their heavenly aroma. When I grind my beans each morning, carefully reassemble the clean parts of the vessel I’m using to brew that day, heat up water, and add it to the grounds, I am immersed in the ritual and it's comforting.
From my toddler to my teenage years, my mother kept a giant green thermos full of the pungent dark liquid by her side. This was necessary and justified, considering that she was raising three young children during the day and working all night long until the sun came up. She also went through another period of working full time while raising two of us, co-running the household, and getting various degrees of higher education that she did not have time for in her 20s. My dad was around too, but my mom had to fly solo when he was miles away working long days, and later when he traveled for work. She simply had to stay tanked up.
In the early 70's it must have taken my dad hours on the bus to get from our white wooden farm-style house on Ridge and Lunt all the way to the Campbell’s Soup factory on 35th and Western where he worked. Legend has it that he took the bumpy CTA trip, day after day, while holding a piping hot cup of the brown stuff. Of course the cup was not covered with a lid — this tough, handsome, south-side greaser of a man was not soft enough for that. I am quite sure he never spilled a drop of the java, gracefully maneuvering his cup as the bus lurched over potholes, as he headed off to support his family with his strong, capable, and steady hands.
I’m right there with my folks in our love for those roasted little beans. As a young kid I’d pour coffee out of the percolator into a cup, add milk and sugar, and drink away. I've liked the taste of java from the very first time it’s bitterness — not quite concealed in the condiments — hit my taste buds.
When I was 17 and working the sunrise shift at Granny’s Waffle and Pancake House on Pine Grove and Diversey, my regulars were relieved to see that I knew how many creamers and sugars it took to make a proper Boston. I’d make sure it was well stirred, collect my tip, hand them their prize, and they’d head out to face their days, feeling bolstered by liquid energy. I was a dealer. Speaking of that town, a 2015 study found Coffee Drinking 'Not Uncommon' Among Boston Toddlers. In this upside down world we are living in it’s probably all of them by now. On this holiday weekend let’s not get too dreary by focusing on the dangers of caffeine or the fact that South Korea may be the only place that’s getting it right.
Fortunately I am down to one or two cups of joe a day, with the rare third cup some afternoons. Rather than chugging the battery acid like I used to, and never being able to get enough of it (I once worked at a coffee shop where fellow baristas asked the owner to do an intervention since they were worried that I might achieve caffeine toxicity in my enthusiasm to taste all the drinks), I am able to enjoy a safe amount of homemade deliciousness. There are even days I don’t have any, and I don’t miss it.
|Molly & Macallan|
The little chat — one of very few human interactions off of a Zoom screen I had that day — put me in a brighter mood. I ordered a Pistachio + Rose Latte comprised of fresh pistachio milk, rose syrup, espresso, and rose petals. I sipped my fancy gem as I walked back home under sunny skies in the warmish fall air and I was grateful for the day.