Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From Folgers to Macchiato: One brave man's journey.

I had my first cup of coffee in Elko Nevada at a casino called, "The Stockmans". It was late at night, I was with my big brother Mel and my dad. We were working at a cattle ranch, building a riding arena. It was pretty exciting being away from home with my two heroes in a casino, WAY past my bed time. We came into town one night to eat dinner.

We were sitting at a table in the cafe looking at the menu, getting ready to order. The waitress came over and asked the usual ice-breaker question, "Can I get you folks something to drink?" My dad said, "I'll have coffee". It was my brother's turn, he asked for Dr. Pepper. I KNEW that there was zero chance that I'd ever be allowed to order pop that late at night, so I made a crazy request. When the waitress waited for my answer, I bravely said - in the deepest 8 year old voice I could muster - "I'd like a cup of coffee, please." The waitress immediately smiled and looked at my dad, to my utter surprise, he nodded a firm, "YES" in her direction.

She brought my coffee and I put my hands on the thick ceramic mug. I looked as steam rose off of the deep brown liquid, I remember trying to take a sip and burning my lip. I recall how terrible it tasted too. But I was determined to be like my dad and learn to drink black coffee. It was the manly thing to do.

At that moment I became a lover of coffee, especially black coffee. I have enjoyed coffee every day of my life ever since.

I recall being at band camp in a place called "Clear Creek" while attending Jr. High School. I woke up the first morning there and to my horror . . . NO COFFEE. I was well into my teens and waking up without coffee was just not a happening thing. I decided to hoof it to the road and hitch hike a few miles down the road to a place called, "Goose's" where I knew I could score some nice hot coffee. I never quite understood why I got in so much trouble from the band teachers. It was their negligence that drove my behavior, I felt that their lack of preparation had ultimately "sealed my fate". Who in their right mind would dream of "camp" sans "coffee"?? Obviously not someone that could possibly merit any respect from little ol' moi.

I recall my first trip to an espresso bar. I was in Park City, Utah. I was working as a superintendent for a construction company remodeling a fire damaged Main Street building. A couple doors down was a coffee shop. I went to get a cup of joe one morning and waited in a line of people slowly making their way to place their orders. I looked at the menu and NOWHERE did it say the word I was looking for . . . "coffee" . . . It mentioned a whole bunch of offerings that I'd NEVER heard of like, Latte and Macchiato and Cappucino and Americano. What in the world were those things?? I felt like leaving rather than exposing my raw ignorance to the barista and everyone else in earshot but decided against it. I neared the counter and was asked the dreaded question, "What can I get for you?" I had NO earthly idea what to order. I leaned in close to the man and said in a whisper, "Give me a cup of the closest thing you have to Folgers, please". He smiled and handed me my first, "Americano". Good stuff.

I like every kind of coffee: instant coffee, sheepherder coffee, drip coffee, percolated coffee, ice coffee and any other kind of coffee. I'm really not a snob at all when it comes to coffee, I'll drink anything.

Lately I have gained new respect for the barista, the coffee gurus who bring their ingenious creations to the vast hoards of the unappreciative. There really is NO limit to the number of taste and flavor sensations the creative coffee maven can put in play. It's a great thing to be able to enjoy coffee in ever expanding catalogs of selections:

The Cheeto
The Bumblebee
Spicy Night in Mexico
The Stalker
Willie Wonka
The Racist

One can only wonder what morning will bring.


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