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"I ain't payin' no five dollars for no cup of coffee!"

 Not my photograph, but one that helps make the point nicely.  The BEST cups of coffee come from using either a pour-over pot with its special filter (at left), or a French press.  Of course, it helps if you use enough ground coffee so that the result in your cup or mug actually tastes like coffee.

The above line was overheard way back in the early winter of 2005, possibly the morning of December 26th, when a crew of roofers arrived at 7am to begin replacing the old roof of a large 19th century townhouse where the Grand Duchess and I rented a wonderfully quirky apartment for a few years prior to purchasing our first house.  We had the third floor unit just beneath the roof, so Christmas Week that year was, shall we say, a raucous affair.

Had I been thinking straight at the time -- It was still very early in the morning on Boxing Day you understand -- I would have quipped in my best Ron Popeil voice, "And you don't have to!"  

Just buy either a pour-over pot like those produced and sold by Chemex, or a French press like those produced and sold by Bodum, boil some water, and tally ho!  You have coffee every bit as good, or better than what you'll get at most cafes. 

Except that you have it at home for breakfast without the need to stand in line at your local Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, Bigby, or similar establishment.  You can also easily enjoy a later cup at your desk at home, as you putter around the house throughout the day, or (hopefully) following the evening meal.  For Monday through Friday mornings, I suggest you pour that fresh pot of aromatic coffee into a plastic or steel insulated cup with a lid for the car, or a larger thermos to take with you into the workplace, and you're good to go as they say.   

My late maternal grandmother always maintained the first cup of coffee after the evening meal was the best one of the day.  I myself would say something rather more Norwegian in outlook, to the tune of "It's always time for a cup of coffee."   Morning, Noon, or night!

Keurig makers seem to be all the rage right now, and my sister swears by hers, but depending on how much coffee you load into it (or don't), the results risk being less than full-bodied or rich in flavor.  I'd suggest sticking with a Chemex or Bodum pot and a kettle of boiled water plus plenty of coffee.  Meager tendencies have no place when it comes to making a tasty pot of the magical elixir.

As for me, I am on my way upstairs to the kitchen to fetch another mug of. . .  My dark mistress!

On a related note, I am reminded of an amusing and ongoing family episode involving coffee and one of my parents' dogs, now sadly departed, who developed a coffee habit of sorts during her lifetime.  

'Babette' first helped herself to the last little bit of coffee with milk and sugar at the bottom of a coffee mug that I had next to me on the floor one evening while I watched TV in the winter of 1993 when I house sat for my parents, who were away on Semester at Sea.  Semester at Sea, at that point, was connected with the University of Pittsburgh, and my step-father (who is still teaching and running a graduate center at Pitt for two or three more years before retiring) was the academic dean on that particular voyage.  

Anyway, it quickly became the thing for Babette  to lap up the last drops of coffee, milk, and sugar at the bottom of my evening mug of coffee since I habitually sat on the floor in the TV room upstairs after supper.  When she did not get her coffee, she would sit nearby, wag her tail, lick her lips, whine, coo, and make any one of a dozen or so other noises in the vain hope that her gesticulations would get one of us, once my parents were home and when I would visit during the summers and over Christmas break, to give her the last lickings in the bottom of a mug or cup.  

Talk about having the java bug.  And then some.  Babette's apparent dependency became so pronounced after a couple of years that, if one stepped briefly away from the dining room table, and she saw her chance, Babette would hop into a handy chair (pushed in under the table mind you), and then snake her way carefully up onto the tabletop where she helped herself to any and all unattended mugs or cups of coffee.  My step-dad observed often that a particular mug had been "poodled."  

In any case, the damage done, Babette would next hop down from the table, find a quiet corner or an end of the sofa in the living room and fall into a deep sleep for a few hours.  The whole thing was terribly funny and still strikes me as hilarious 20-odd years later, but Mom was not amused at the time.  Neither were my grandparents when they visited.

Mom always blamed me for Babette's coffee habit afterwards and referred to me as Babette's enabler, or more accurately her pusher.  Eventually, I was given strict instructions on the telephone, before every visit, NOT to give Babette any coffee during my stay.  Under penalty of death.  I always laughed, but you'll grasp instantly how serious a mother's words are and the great weight behind them.  Mothers are, you'll agree, not to be trifled with.  Even when you are in your 30s.

Babette lived until she was 12.  She passed away quietly in the night in October 2004 at my parents' second house in Mexico where Mom and her dogs began residing most of each year in '02.  Babette is buried in a corner of the patio beneath a large mango tree.  During subsequent visits, Mom and I have discussed in passing the purchase of an oversized latte cup and saucer to mark Babette's grave.  It seems only fitting.  Of all of the various dogs that have been in family, I miss her the most.  Besides her coffee-induced antics, Babette had the biggest personality, the largest speaking vocabulary, and the most expressive face of all.  She was an amazing companion during her life and always gave me a special greeting whenever I visited my parents.  

Of course, I was her enabler, and Babette's hope for a lick or two of coffee from my mug sprang eternal.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


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