When did coffee get so complicated? I think it started when that topless mermaid out in Seattle started selling the stuff in cups with French sizing, but I’m not sure.
Now understand, I am not a coffee connoisseur, like American hero Bo Riles. I can’t sniff the beans from six different countries and know which one will make the better brew, but I know what I like, and I know it is getting harder and harder and harder to get a good hot cup o’ Joe — at home or away from home.
My mama and daddy drank Maxwell House instant coffee. The jar with the stars on top sat on our kitchen table all day, every day—along with the Tabasco sauce, the toothpick holder and the salt and pepper shakers. When someone wanted a cup of coffee Mama would heat water in our old copper tea kettle. It was one of those that whistled when the water started boiling. I guess that took the guess work right out of making a cup of instant coffee.
I never drank the stuff, so I don’t know if it was good or not — but I know it was hot. I learned that at a very young age, while sitting in my daddy’s lap, while he drank coffee and read the morning newspaper. I reached up and pulled a fresh cup of the scalding stuff over on top of me. I have a nice set of scars on my shoulder and chest to help remind me not to do that again.
I do remember that my folks had an old percolator but they never used it. Mama said it was too much trouble to keep clean. So it was instant Maxwell House for them. Mama tried to switch to Folgers Crystals once, but Daddy pitched a fit. Said next thing you know we’ll quit Dixie Crystals sugar to save a few pennies a pound and bring Kraft mayonnaise into the house instead of Blue Plate.
Homer Huckaby was big on brand loyalty.
I learned to like coffee in Aderhold Hall at the University of Georgia, hallowed be thy name. Believe it or not, I did study a little bit while I was a student — and much of that studying was done at Aderhold while drinking a cup of hazelnut coffee. I learned that the flavoring disguised the bitter taste that I had always associated with my java.
By the time my lovely wife, Lisa, and I were married — way back in the previous century — I was a two-cup-a-morning guy and never felt more adult than when I bought my very first Mr. Coffee machine. No instant coffee for me. I was moving on up!
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. For at least a quarter century I was just fine with my drip coffee maker. I would load it up at night with water and Maxwell House coffee — or Folgers, if it were on sale. I am not a proud man, nor nearly as stubborn as my father. The next morning I would switch it on, fetch the paper and sit and read and sip, perfectly content.
Then things started happening out in the world and all of a sudden, our Mr. Coffee coffee maker wasn’t sufficient. Lisa wanted more excitement in her life. She wanted frappes and cappuccinos and espressos and lattes and suddenly a simple cup of coffee just didn’t seem fulfilling — not according to her.
Now we are the proud owner of a coffee machine that cost more than my first car and has more gizmos and settings and buttons to push than Gemini 3. It took me several days to figure out how to get a simple cup of coffee from the contraption — which is all I have ever wanted.
It makes a cup at a time, so if you come over for a hot beverage on a cold morning, you’ll have to wait your turn. There are an exponential number of flavors to choose from — caramel drizzle, French vanilla — even hazelnut, but not like they had at Aderhold Hall. If you ask me, the coffee is never hot enough — I guess that is the McDonald’s syndrome. Everyone is afraid of getting sued if another child winds up scarred like I was. I find myself putting mine in the microwave for 45 seconds every morning when Lisa isn’t looking.
She claims that she likes all those fancy flavors, but when I go to the store and bring back simple cups of Maxwell House and Folgers — they always disappear at a rate faster than two a day — which is still my total consumption.
Big sigh, here.
Oh well. They call it progress. It’s a lot like having a television with 200 channels and nothing on worth watching. Maybe someday we’ll get back to rabbit ears, instant coffee and college football games that last two hours.
Until then, I think I’ll have a French roast, vanilla infused latte au lait cappuccino with a touch of cinnamon. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.