Friday, February 02, 2007

Random, number infinity.

Is anybody else out there schizy with their coffee preferences, or is it just me?

On any given day you can fine me either in the kitchen at home or the kitchen at work, pondering over the big question "What do I feel like having in my caffeine today?" Black - not so much, sugar - mostly, milk and sugar - lately.

It appears as though I'm turning into my mother. She's a cream n' sugar girl from way back.


When I was a kid, it was expected that we be at the dinner table at 5:30. That seems almost laughably early to me now, but because all three of us kids were involved in all kinds of stuff, we needed to be fed after band practice and before the remainder of the evening's activities. 5:30 was really the only available time slot.

(When my grandparents came to visit, they said the were going to "The Crazy House." 'Nuf said, right there).

Dinner was ALWAYS eaten as a family and ALMOST always a roast or chicken or some real meal that required cooking. I think Mom must have started at about 3:30 to get the dinner on the table at 5:30.

There was veg and mash and meat waiting on the table so that as soon as Dad got home from work he'd drop his coat and briefcase and sit right down to eat.
Then, after dinner, there was cake and coffee. Always. A meal wasn't finished without dessert. Frankly, I don't know how my Mom accomplished all of that and still got us out the door by 6:30 for other stuff. I'd be exhausted, I'm sure.

From the time I was about 10 years old, I was the one to make the coffee. As the plates were being cleared from dinner (by my brothers!) and as we chatted as a family, I'd fill the pot with water, pour it into the reservoir, spoon out the coffee, and set the thing to drip. I would bury my nose into the coffee can and inhale deeply; the smell of the ground coffee was succulent, evocative, it smelled of faraway somewhere and of home at the same time.
I'd set out the creamer and sugar bowl, get clean spoons, and pour out the coffee for my parents as Mom sliced cake. Then my Dad would take a sip and say "Tiff, you make the best darned coffee anywhere." And then I'd glow, ferociously proud of my skill and pleased to be of use. I have no idea if it tasted good or not, but because they let me keep making it I guess it didn't suck all too bad.

A little thing, the coffee making, yet it gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. I felt grown up and capable and responsible. A nice thing for a kid with self-esteem issues and a pathologic case of shyness.


It's no surprise then that I started drinking coffee as soon as I got into college. In my second year of school I moved into a suite with 5 other girls (Hi, y'all!), and we set up a pot right in the living room, mostly because we didn't have a kitchen.
One of my suitemates and I would periodically get up early (like, say, when we decided that showing up at an 8 a.m. class from time to time might be a good idea), turn on the pot, and smoke cigarettes and drink coffee until it was almost too late to get to class. The smoke and coffee worked perfectly together to stimulate my desire to get an education, and it was fun to pretend to be grown up.

The little things - I remember them. The dull gleam of the small table lamp, barely bright enough to see by. The uncomfortable pleather chairs. The cinderblock walls. The way the smoke curled and wafted with the current created by our movements. The hot coffee steam, brown-smelling and moist. The reluctance of an awakening 19-year-old girl to leave the cozy nest. Little moments. Tiny spots of time somehow captured by my wandering mind, frozen forever through some miracle of cranial chemistry. It strikes me as odd that I didn't remember the rabbit we had for a while in that same suite, but I CAN remember early morning coffee and cigarettes with Little Miss Bumblebee. The mind, she is a curious thing indeed.

It was an omen then that, later on, I found that most scientists practically mainline coffee. The first job I had out of grad school was at the University of Virginia, where the pot was, quite seriously, ALWAYS on. I had found a home amongst the bean-drinkers. Most excellent. Drank it black. We couldn't afford the milk and sugar. Yum anyhow.

Yeah, coffee. When I worked at a large pharmaceutical company, I used to go for a cup every morning with a dear dear friend. It was almost a ritual, like "hey, we've been at work for an hour, it's time for a break!" and we'd take 15 (or, uh,
45) minutes to grab a cup and chat about anything and everything under the sun and beyond the stratosphere. And then, well, maybe do that in the afternoon too. We forged a strong friendship over the almighty bean. I miss that. Nobody where I am now is a regular coffee-lover. Plus, the coffee they serve at my new job mostly sucks.

I drink it anyhow. Because, you know, it's COFFEE!


I understand that there are some issues with Haloscan comments lately. I'm sorry - can't figger out why. Please feel free to use the old blogger comments (I think they still work) or to e-mail me at with your insights, and I'll put them into the comments myself.

No comments: