Monday, October 17, 2011

The coffee hater

I make a very lousy Swede for at least two reasons: I hate the taste of coffee and I try to avoid eating fish. Don't even think of mentioning lutfisk. Shudder. The one Swedish thing about my cooking is the generous use of butter. Smor ock kärlek. Butter and love. That's the motto of Swedish cooking. That much I truly live up to.

Back to the coffee issue. I do not mind the smell of coffee brewing. That is homey. But I have never liked the taste of coffee in my mouth. Don't even consider bringing up mocha, thanks. If I detect coffee in my chocolate I want to spit it out, and usually do, though not in front of others.

When I went to France on my semester abroad in autumn of 1967 I had successfully navigated to the ripe age of 21 without ever tasting more than a sip of the nasty stuff. The day I arrived on the train in Montpellier my host family was all out and about. So Jean René, the son my age, arranged for a friend to meet me at the train. Said friend took me to the apartment where his family lived and his mother looked after me until my family could sweep me off to their home. The gracious lady offered me coffee. I said, as graciously as I could, that I do not drink coffee but appreciate the offer. She opined that this was because I had not had good French coffee and hers was marvelous and I must have some.

Well, I may have been a callow youth but I did not want to start an international incident on my second day in France. She brought me a (mercifully small) cup of coffee, "black as my heart" as my mother would say. Steeling myself, I took a sip. Fire hit my belly, and I don't mean passion. I thought I had just downed battery acid. And since I had not slept much on the train the night before nor eaten much, the caffeine hit my bloodstream almost instantly. My heart raced. And yes, I thought the flavor was incredibly vile. I made polite noises and probably took one or two more sips before begging off, saying it was most impressive but my body was not accustomed to it.

No, I don't ever intend to drink coffee again. Why do you ask? Yes, unless the tiramisu is beyond elegant I will spit it out. If it is truly exceptional I will eat one bite just to test the quality of all the other things that make tiramisu elegant. I believe it is a wonderful dessert, I just don't want any.

So, on Facebook I talked about my indulging in a high end ice cream maker Friday night. If I make this much gelato, why not? One tires of having to put the freezing canister of my prior ice cream device in the freezer for at least one night. One might want to make more than one flavor or greater quantities and need to keep on freezing after one batch. Well, now one can. It was a chunk of money. I said I felt I could justify this (having made gelato now five times in two months). But I could not justify the espresso machine for sale at Costco because I loathe coffee, don't even keep any in the house, and it was way too much money. Though it would be nice to be able to serve espresso at the end of a lovely Italian meal, just to round out the experience.

Allow me to compound this story with another aside. When I moved to Albuquerque and had the illusion I would entertain more than I actually did the first four years here, I bought one pound each of regular and decaf coffee and put same in my freezer. I do have a coffee grinder (two, actually, though one is for spices only). I have a coffee maker (two, actually, for "leaded" and decaf). I think it was three years later that I tossed out the two pounds of coffee. Probably had freezer burn at that point. I had made coffee once, perhaps. (I do have tea, mind you.)

Friend Randy, who keeps an eye on my Facebook posts, not only showed up with a couple bottles of wine on Saturday but he and his friend Troy also had a little host gift:

These lovely rose pattern demitasse cups and saucers for my espresso.

Knowing full well how I feel about coffee and the whole issue around it.

Bless their hearts. (And aren't the cups beautiful?)

It was not gratuitous teasing. Randy also pointed out that there are alternatives to expensive fancy schmancy espresso machines. (Oh, and tonight at Costco I noticed the espresso machine was actually about eight dollars cheaper than my new ice cream maker. That was a bit humbling.)

So I did some reading online about espresso and related topics and did a little shopping on the way home tonight.

I have a new coffee grinder. I can set it for an espresso grind without wondering if I have done it right.

And I have a stovetop espresso maker, the classic macchinetta from 1933.

I also have some Italian roast and espresso beans from Whole Foods (small quantities) and also a bag of the espresso roast Starbucks and medium roast decaf from Starbucks purchased at Costco. I need to learn how to use the new toys, of course, but I will learn.

I also know that my hand blender can whip up 150 degree milk, so I don't need no stinkin' steam device or 'spensive device à frapper.

So if you come to my house for an Italian meal, you will be able to enjoy a shot of espresso. Hell, I'll even throw some hooch in and you can have caffè corretto. A latte? We can do that too. What, you want mocha? I've got Starbucks cocoa powder. We'll do it.

This is your friendly barista, who still loathes coffee but wants y'all to have a good time (and drive home sober).

--the BB


Fran said...

I felt like I was on a short, lovely journey as I read this post... I knew that you hated coffee, but I felt carried away as I read all about the why and more.

And I love that your sense of deep generosity and hospitality causes you to want to make sure that your guests can enjoy some of the stuff. Your food posts are always a delight and now I can look forward to imagining this last step of the meal... taken with such care.

How I wish I lived closer, for many reasons, now including the espresso! However, my real motivation would be to be closer to the man who will make the espresso!

(PS- who knows what makes a good Swede or not? I do know what makes a good person. Butter helps but mostly it is heart. You have that in great abundance!!)

Lindy said...

I'm with you on the coffee, mate.

it's margaret said...

Oh my dearest --you are so sweet. I love a good cuppa --I'll be right over!!!

Paul said...

Margaret, I would SO love to feed you and Joel, and end with a cuppa. Lindy, you and I can have tea.

Brian R said...

I can not start my day without coffee and love a cup at any time, the stronger the better, but not the weak dishwater served in most parts of the USA. The Continentals introduced good coffee to Australia and NZ. However the mere mention of the word chilli in a recipe makes my stomach knot. Guess it just as well we are all different.

Paul said...

Brian R, I am amused. Having lived among foodies in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am accustomed to friends drinking serious coffee, much better than what passed for coffee in the US when I was a boy. And I don't mind the smell of it brewing at all.

Szechuan and Hunan cooking in the Bay Area got me accustomed to much hotter dishes (and, of course, the occasional foray into Thai food), so I am fine with chiles. New Mexican cuisine is hotter than Mexican cuisine so I exercise some caution.