Nov 04., 2016 / Being Southern
My wife and I start our day with a full pot of coffee and the morning news. By the time she leaves for work there is only enough left in the pot to fill her travel cup.
It’s a great way to start the day in my book, and though I do enjoy the coffee every day, there are some days when it tastes better. Who knows why this is so? Same coffee, same water, same pot yet something in the taste buds welcomes it more than other days.
Today it tastes very good. It’s much cooler here this morning with heavy rain and that probably has something to do with it. I don’t know why but it seems that even marginally cooler weather brings out the best in coffee. When the calendar changes and we move into Autumn and Winter, the warming aspect of coffee certainly is a bonus.
I grew up among coffee drinkers. When I was a child coffee was made from a percolator on the stove. Hot off the gas range, my daddy would often pour his coffee into a saucer, blow on it, and drink it while it was still smoking. I don’t guess that is proper etiquette and is not something he would ever do in a restaurant. However, we were at home and accepted. Many of us today drink out of mugs but in our household, it was always a cup and saucer for coffee. There is something especially pleasant about the clinking of china as cup meets saucer or as a spoon stirs the ingredients.
I did not begin to drink coffee in earnest until I graduated from high school. Prior to that time though I would drink a cup on occasion. I particularly remember one encounter with a very hot cup of coffee. It was the last high school game of the season, a very cold November night. My Uncle Jack had brought me to the game as he did every Friday. At halftime I was really cold and went to the concession stand, deciding to get coffee…a very adult thing to do for an eighth grader. I paid for my coffee and they passed me the paper cup which was incredibly hot, likely the hottest I’d ever held but it felt really good to my cold hands. There was milk and sugar available on the counter so I took advantage. I poured in the condiments and reached for a plastic spoon to stir it up. I noted that the spoons were of the lightest plastic I had ever seen. When I stuck the spoon in the steaming hot coffee, it bent double, testifying to the excessive heat of the beverage. I stirred it as best I could with the now distorted spoon. It was several minutes before I could drink any of the coffee and even then it was short sips. I learned this when the first taste burned the tip of my tongue. Its primary purpose for a while was to serve as a hand warmer. I learned that I did not like excessively hot coffee but some people do. I am aware of people who take a freshly brewed cup of steaming coffee and put it in the microwave to make it even hotter. These days, I’m a somewhere between a normal hot and room temperature kind of a guy, but we all have different preferences.
My first wife passed in 2001 but I learned a great deal about coffee from her and her family who lived in the hill country of eastern Tennessee. I quickly discovered that coffee was available in the kitchen all day long. If at any point you drank the last cup it was your responsibility to make another pot. I also learned that though there was milk in the refrigerator and sugar in a bowl on the kitchen table, they did not use condiments for their coffee. They drank it black. I learned to do it too and now it’s actually my preference. Granted, it is an acquired taste. Occasionally, I do take the plunge into the land of sugar but overall it is black for me. I heard someone say that they drink their coffee black, “The way the Lord drinks His.” I don’t know who could speak with that authority but it is an interesting concept.
Of course, coffee is loved by many for the boost it gives us first thing in the morning. Most people avoid it at night not wanting it to disrupt sleep. However, I do remember that my first wife’s father never seemed to be affected by it, regardless of the time of day. I learned that from observation.
One night when we were visiting the family in Tennessee it was bedtime so the coffee pot was finally turned off from its hard day’s work. I saw my step-father Freeman Sexton who was well into his eighties, take the remainder of the coffee and pour it into a thermos. I asked my wife if her dad was going somewhere early in the morning. She asked why I posed that question. I told her what I saw her daddy do with the last of the coffee and that made me curious. She explained that if he got up during the night to go to the bathroom (which many of us older guys do), that he would take a drink of the leftover coffee just like many people get a drink of water! That my friends, was a hard core coffee drinker. Of course, you would kind of expect that from a man who tended an acre garden with only a hoe and split wood for the cooking stove every day….but that’s another story.