Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Elixir of life.

Anne-droid, as I am, is a coffee fiend. We both have a love for the most beautiful brown liquid in the world. PG Tips and Typhoo tea are a close second, for me anyway. I can't speak for Anne on that one.

I always like to joke that I was weaned from the bottle to the coffee cup, but there is a large amount of truth to that. I was born in Brooklyn, and lived there until I was about 2 or 3, in the same building as my grandparents. (We lived one floor below them.) Coffee was a staple food in our household from as long as I can remember. As this was the late 50's, early 60's, there were very different ideas on what was safe for kids to eat and drink. Most parents today would perish at the thought of their 3 year-old guzzling down a Starbucks triple shot latte, but so many parents give no thought to allowing their kids to guzzle down huge amounts of caffeinated soda, so where's the difference?

On 98th street, which was the block I lived on in Brooklyn, there was a lunchonette called "Benny's." It was the local hangout, soda shop, basically a miniature diner. Going to Benny's for breakfast or lunch was something of a ritual, and I would accompany my parents and grandparents on many an occasion. Here is where I would get my first taste of java, and where the path of my caffeine addiction started. To this day my mother swears that my first complete sentence was "Let's go to Benny's for coffee!" Whether this is true or apocryphal is unknown. I would like to think it is true.

Going to relatives was always a coffee fest. Often it was brewed Chock Full 'O Nuts, or Maxwell House; brewed in the percolator that would go "plop, plop" that I would watch from the counter in my Aunt R's kitchen. If I was lucky, I would get to fill the basket that would go inside the percolator, and put my nose into the coffee can to inhale it like a coke junkie. Whether it is a coffee spoon or a coke spoon, the craving for that fine powder for irresistible. At least with coffee though, you wouldn't end up in jail for possession.

I can remember when we got our first automatic drip brew, a Mr. Coffee, of course. They were all the rage, and they were much easier to use than the percolators, and took much less time as well. They didn't always make the greatest cup of coffee, of course, but over time they have gotten much better. I think the popularity of espresso machines might have helped that along.

Working as a paramedic all those years, coffee was my daily drug of choice. It was an absolute necessity for survival, as important as any medication I carried in my drug bag. God forbid I got a call before my first morning cup. There would be serious doubt as to whether or not the patient would live, as I would be irritable, and possibly annoyed that they had the poor grace to call me because they were in heart failure. You want to have a heart attack, fine. Do it after my first cup of the day. (Yes, I am only kidding - maybe.) 5- 6 cups during an 8-hour tour was the norm. We won't discuss how many I had if I was pulling a double shift.

My most horrific moment came while on a hostage incident. We were called to the scene of a shooting, the cops had this guy cornered in a home, he started firing at the cops, (uh, while we were there, and had to dive under the ambulance for cover) then after some tense moments, he came out, and put a gun to his head threatening to kill himself. The emergency services unit arrived, were trying to talk the guy down, and in the meantime, my partner and I were stationed about a block away, waiting it out. I went into the bodega (Spanish grocery) on the block, got two cups of strong Spanish coffee (Cafe' Bustello) for me and my partner. I had maybe 3 or 4 sips, when we heard 'BANG!!!," and the screams of the officers for medics. The guy unloaded one into his head. We had to rush to him, stretcher and equipment and all.

I had to ditch the fresh cup of coffee. That was the real horror..........(The guy made it, much to our surprise, with a .22 slug rattling around his brain.)

Now, I am sure my Euro and Brit friends who have been here to the States have differing opinions on American coffee. "Weak," is usually the operative word I have heard them use. There is a large amount of truth to that. (Don't EVER have coffee at Shoney's, a restaurant chain in the south. It is vile. I would rather drink tepid dishwater than ever have another cup of their coffee again.) I think though that, for better or worse, Starbucks has forced American coffee to become far better in say the past 10-15 years. You can find far better places to consume your favorite cups of joe, and varieties such as Sumatra, Ethiopian, and Jamaica Blue Mountain are now commonplace.

Rochester has some nice coffee houses here. Two of my favs are:

Spin Coffee on Park Ave. (no, not THAT Park Ave.) Lovely little place, great coffee, good lunches and desserts as well.

Boulder Coffee, on the corner of Alexander St. and Clinton Ave. A recent discovery of mine, though they have been here for some time. Lovely, funky interior. Reminds me of certain places in Greenwich Village in NYC. Have not really tried their food, but will soon.

Both these places are also great as they have free wi-fi, and I get a lot of writing done there.......
Now, all I need to do is to replace the carafe to my coffee maker that I smashed this past Saturday morning.......Oh, the horror, the horror........


Julia said...

When you find a replacement carafe, you should blog it with pictures. My dogs chewed up the funky one we had (it was this cool, blue plastic molded beauty).

battlemaiden said...

Boulder is withing walking distance of our house! Woo-hoo!

ADSisson1 said...

Mmmmm, Coffee. One of my last remaining addictions.

Starbuck$ inevidably brew their brews too long and it tast
tastes that way. Never been to Boulder or Spin on Park. Jen and I will need to check them out sometime soon.

Free WiFi and I have a new laptop. Color me (us) there.

Midnight Tempest said...

I never quite understood this love for coffee that so many of you have. That is other than the physical addiction one can have to cafine. I do like tea though, but still nothing can beat a good tasting soda. I have to say I prefer cold drinks over hot ones unless it's very cold out. I can see the social draw to sitting around with others talking over a cup of coffee, but then again I can see those very same benefits from sitting around over that soda as well.
The only true benefit I have experienced from coffee is the invention of those little plastic tubs of creamer that some places have out on the table for you coffee drinkers. I remeber in my younger days sitting in Perkins with a few of those creamers in my hand under the table. Fond memories come to mind as I recall the facial expressions of those of my friends who had the misfortune of me popping open said creamers over their lap hidden from view by the table we sat at. It got to the point where whenever we went to any such place my friends told the person seating us not to bring any creamers to the table without directly handing them to someone other than myself. So as I look back I guess I can see that even for me coffee has it's good side.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Tempest - Welcome to the blog. I guess each to his own addiction. Like I said, mine started at a very young age, so it just became a part of my upbringing and life. Indeed, coffee does have its social impact as well.

Funny you should mention the little creamer tubs, as I recall having the exact same experience. I guess Perkins does not take kindly to "creamer wars." ;-)

gemmak said...

Lol ....love this line, I so agree; "I had to ditch the fresh cup of coffee. That was the real horror"

As for coffee....nectar of the gods, but nothing less than a good ristretto will do ;o)