Al Batt: Magic bean potion helps morning-impaired

Published 9:57 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt


  How did my family take their coffee? Very seriously.

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  No one started working until the caffeine did.

  Coffee sipped at the kitchen table aided discussion, digestion and decisions.

  The family motto was, “Drink coffee, then do something else until you can drink coffee again.” 

  I stopped to get a cup of English breakfast tea at a nice coffee shop in Washburn, Wisconsin. A sign where customers ordered read, “I’ll have a caffe mocha vodka valium latte to go please.” It was a cheat sheet for those who were stumped as to what to order.

  I don’t drink coffee. I enjoy tea. People are so nice, that when I visit, they often put coffee and a brownie on the table in front of me. I feel guilty when I tell them I don’t do coffee or chocolate. Then they offer me pop (soda or soft drink) as a coffee replacement. I don’t drink it either. It’s difficult being fussy without being rude. I know these are favored things for many people. That’s why I don’t consume them. I want to make sure there is enough for everyone else. In their places, I like hot, black breakfast tea, unsweetened iced tea and pie or sugar cookies.

  My mother’s coffee brewed on the kitchen stove all day. She liked her coffee strong. If a spoon wouldn’t stand upright in the middle of the cup and the coffee came out of that cup without shaking, my mother felt it wasn’t strong enough. She believed in hitting everyone with her best pot. By the end of the day the coffee came out of the pot as if it were oil being drained from a truck. Family, friends and neighbors willingly drank Mom’s coffee in keeping with the maxim, “Who needs sleep?“

  Mom sometimes made egg coffee. It went down easier. Egg coffee was made by mixing coffee grounds and a raw egg in boiling water. Some folks added the shell to the grounds. This produced a rich coffee with diminished bitterness and acidity.

  My bedroom was situated above the kitchen in our old farmhouse. In the morning, my mother fried bacon and eggs while she brewed coffee. Love was in the air as the smell of bacon and coffee wafted through a small heat register in the corner of my room. The smell made it, but heat never found its way through that register. In the winter, my bedroom was slightly colder than the outdoors. It felt warmer, but only because the windchill factor was lessened by the walls. If there aren’t any, there should be perfumes that smell like bacon and coffee. Men would find that attractive. The odors of frying bacon and brewing coffee were my alarm clock. I tried both. Bacon good, coffee bad. That’s why we have BLT sandwiches and not CLT sandwiches. I wasn’t above using a cup of coffee as a hand warmer.

  I wanted to be a coffee drinker, as it was a path to adulthood. You were supposed to be of a certain age before beginning to drink coffee for fear that the mud, joe, java or jitter juice would stunt your growth. I drank coffee. I found it bitter. I had a license to be disappointed and I was. There is no painless way to exist. Drinking coffee is habit-forming. So is not drinking coffee.

  There were coffee jitters, caffeine headaches and coffee breaks, but no baristas. The only Starbucks in those days was found in two copies of “Moby Dick.” Waitresses typically carried one pot of coffee in cafes. Occasionally, they carried two — one for regular coffee and the other for decaffeinated (usually Sanka). I suspect that both pots often carried regular coffee. To the drinker, it was mind over grind.

  Cups were cup-sized, not the size of an ocean. Coffee cups rarely carried whimsical sayings or advertising messages in those days. Coffee cups shut up and did their jobs. Travel mugs hadn’t traveled to where I was yet.

  Mother drank Hills Brothers, Maxwell House or Folgers — whichever one was cheapest. Maxwell House was good until the last drop, but Folgers hadn’t yet become the best part of waking up. Folgers had TV commercials featuring Mrs. Olson played by an actress born in Stanton, Iowa, whose comforting words and coffee saved marriages troubled by a young wife’s inability to make a decent cup of coffee.

  If Mrs. Olson threatened me with great bodily harm, I’d be willing to take another stab at drinking my mother’s coffee, but not unless I was wearing a safety helmet.

Al Batt’s columns appear Wednesdays and Saturdays.