What’s In Your Cupboard? Maybe Mellower Times
By Jerry Gervase
I begin my day with a cup of black coffee. It is a morning ritual that hasn’t changed in the better part of a century. That’s enough coffee to float an armada of ships bringing beans from Brazil. Though my morning habit hasn’t changed, coffee has. There are far more blends and brands on the shelves than there used to be.
Way back in the 20th Century it seemed there was only Maxwell House, Chase & Sanborn, and Sanka for the sleep deprived. Sanka was a sponsor of I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone and The Andy Griffith Show, all of which were lively and interesting enough not to need regular coffee to keep you awake. Those brands came in one-pound cans. The size of the cans looks the same today, but sixteen ounces has shrunk to twelve. If only I could lose weight so easily.
Most of today’s brands come in fancy foil bags. They hold twelve ounces, too. There is nothing to do with them except toss them out when empty. Cans were useful. You could put loose screws, nails, marbles, skate keys and just about anything that didn’t fit in pockets into them. The foil bags proudly display the blend. I think they’re called signature coffees, although I’ve never seen anyone’s autograph on them. There are dark roasts, medium roasts, and French roasts, moca-java, and filter drip mélange just to name a few. They come from a lot of different places. Kona coffee is very popular. If anyone asks you if coffee beans are grown in the United States you can tell them yes. Jamaica sends us a lot of coffee. Surprisingly, Ethiopia does, too. I picture Ethiopia as desert. Isn’t a lot of the Sahara in Ethiopia? I didn’t think coffee trees do well in sandy soil.
When I’m out I like coffee from a nearby coffee shop. Their “Fog Lifter” is a great name for coffee, but if you buy it in a store its price per pound is about the same as three gallons of gas. I can’t drink Starbucks coffee. It always tastes burnt to me. I like their coffee drinks, though, even though they’re pricey.
When I was a kid, coffee was five cents a cup with no limit on refills. I remember a restaurant that bragged about the “bottomless cup.” They just kept pouring until you went into Sanka’s Twilight Zone. I was raised on coffee. I remember having it for breakfast even before I started school. My father, who wasn’t known for saying things that would be recorded by historians said, “If coffee is good enough for me, it’s good enough for my kids.” It was half milk, but the amount of milk kept decreasing, as we got older. Along with the coffee we got two slices of toast. It is still my breakfast almost a hundred years later.
Funny how we still do things the way our parents did – take brand names, for instance. I buy the same brands my mother bought. Welch’s grape jelly, Nabisco crackers, French’s mustard, Heinz Ketchup, and Campbell’s soups still have a place in my cupboard. If I could find it, I would buy Lux soap. I’ll pass on Velveeta cheese. I think they stuff Kevlar vests with Velveeta. Those two pound loafs could stop a bullet. Where have Ivory Flakes gone? And Old Dutch Cleanser? Mother always had a box of Swans Down Cake Mix, along with Bisquick, and Aunt Jemima Syrup. I still use mom’s Cut-Rite wax paper and Land O Lakes butter. How did we ever survive Crisco?
Why do you think we do that? We speak of comfort foods – PB&J sandwiches, tomato soup and crackers, meatloaf, pasta. Maybe there are comfort brands, too. They’re a way of not letting go of the past – or rather, what was good about the past. Maybe if I could spread Welch’s jelly over political correctness, people would be more open to common sense. Or soaking politicians in Ivory Flakes might soften their harsh rhetoric against anyone who disagrees with them. Maybe pouring Aunt Jemima syrup on aggressive activists would slow them down a bit. And wouldn’t you like to slam the haters of this country with two pounds of Velveeta?
Perhaps I’m slipping slowly into nostalgia. That’s not always good. Nostalgia isn’t rational – it’s an emotion that exists outside rationality. Spending time in the past is the single best way to cure nostalgia. It makes today look better than ever. But remembering the old ways is comforting. While I’m reminiscing, please pour me a cup of coffee. If it was good enough for my father, it’s good enough
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