Thursday, December 8, 2016


Although it's part of my almost-daily routine, the scent of coffee still has power, sometimes, to take me back in time. Today though, it was a word: thermos.

My father was a truck driver, which I suppose almost by default meant that he was a big coffee drinker. When I think of my dad, it's the scent of coffee. And it's two big stainless steel thermoses with lids that screwed in, capped off by another lid that doubled as a plastic coffee mug. They were big, they were sturdy, they were Dad. 

I remember Dad and Grandma drinking coffee after most meals, at least when out and about. I don't remember it at home so much, but if we went to a restaurant or a church potluck, they were both sure to have a cup of coffee after the meal, with dessert. 

Despite that, coffee didn't hold a big appeal for me. When I wanted caffeine, I turned to Pepsi or Coke, but mostly that wasn't until college when I would accompany an all-nighter with a ridiculously large Coke from the campus Pub--no ice, please, I need as much Coke as you can fit in there. 

In high school, coffee did take on another association, though: working at McDonald's for a couple of years, there were periods--particularly in the summers--when I opened to store on a regular basis (there were also periods when I closed: I guess that's part of being a high schooler, none of the adults managing the schedule give a damn about your sleep schedule). The first thing we did each morning when opening the store, before a single egg was cracked, muffin toasted, or hash brown fried, was to make a pot of regular and a pot of decaf. And even though I wasn't a coffee drinker, it was like the coffee maker there pumped the caffeine right into the air, because it was invigorating. Sure, it was 4:30 in the morning, but once the coffee pot was going, I was ready to go too. 

I first became something of a social coffee drinker at my first job, a small boarding school in western Pennsylvania. One of the traditions there was that all the faculty members--after we'd been to the day's required dinner with students--were invited to the Headmaster's house for coffee and maybe some sweets. It was a good time to grow closer with your colleagues, and if the old man was in attendance, you could hear some wild stories of the way things used to be, back in the days when teachers smokes cigars in the classroom (using the chalk trays as ash trays) and could more or less strike students at will. You know, the good old days of concussions in history class and lung cancer in English. 

I would have felt out of place there not drinking coffee, so I did what any sensible sugar addict would do: I loaded my cup with the cute and oh-so-sophisticated sugar cubes provided as well as cream, so that I had a sugary-milky substance with a dash of coffee for color. 

But what can I say, I suppose it was a gateway for later coffee explorations. I think I became an inveterate drinker of coffee when I started playing around with low-carb diets, because incredibly fat-filled coffees are kind of a staple of those dietary communities. I tried "Bulletproof" coffee, which is basically coffee blended with coconut oil and butter--it's decent, but after a brief flirtation I've felt no calling to make it my regular joe. I drank coffee with coconut milk--fine, but it seems to end up a little watery (but then, I could probably fix that if I just didn't insist on using everything that comes in the can). My favorite though, the one I come back to day in and day out, is coffee with heavy whipping cream. 

My god. 

It's just so rich and amazing. I never put any sweetener in my coffee, just loads of cream, and it's wonderful. If I'm out and about, I'll often go for the Starbucks flat white with heavy whipping cream--basically it's just espresso and heated and frothed HWC, and it's perhaps a thousand calories of fat, but what a thousand calories they are. Not something to drink every day, unless it's basically the only thing you consume  every day. Which, now that I think about it, doesn't sound half bad. 

And that's my coffee story: it's a long way from my father's relationship with coffee, but still, that whiff of brewed or brewing coffee just sometimes takes me back to being six years old and hugging my dad as he said goodbye to go off and drive a semi to the next state, putting bread on our table and coffee in our thermoses. 


  1. The Flat White is pretty much crack in a cup. I used to think it was the Gingerbread Latte, but no; it's the Flat White. (Normally, though, I drink my coffee black. I know; I'm hard core.

  2. I drink my (many) cups of coffee black and the idea of it is pretty much the only thing that gets me up in the morning. (Well, apart from my bladder, the newspaper and the occasional scheduled tennis match). But I associate those stainless steel thermoses with my parents, too. I still have one. We'd fill it with hot water to warm it up and then dump it out, put the hot coffee in and it'd be hot for hours. I think I still have my thermos. My parents and I would travel hundreds of miles before we ran out of nice, hot, black. Well, gotta fill my cup now.

  3. I've been having my morning coffee since I was about 3 years old. I remember sleeping at a friend's house in junior high and had no coffee and I had the WORST headache I have ever had. It took me a while to realize it was caffeine with drawl - haha! I don't like any fancy stuff in it - just regular Louisiana Community coffee, Spelnda, and a little half and half. Although as you said, heavy whipping cream is rather good and I add a splash when we have some.