Coffee: Grounds for Lasting Friendship

I can honestly say that, with one notable exception, I am on friendly terms with every one of a fairly impressive list of former “significant others,” and I think I know why. It’s that they all share my affinity for coffee.

The man I married doesn’t drink coffee—never did. Which should have been my first clue that the marriage wouldn’t last.

But no matter how rocky my other relationships became at one time or another, we could always hash out our differences over a steaming cuppa. Therein, I’m convinced, lies the secret to long-lasting friendship.

Lots of couples share wine, and grape appreciation has been part of my relationships as well, but wine is different. When combined with an argument or even with amoré, an alcoholic beverage can cause trouble. Coffee involves no such liability.

My first post-divorce boyfriend introduced me to coffee with chicory, from the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. He would buy it in a bright red can and add a teaspoonful to freshly-ground beans to render a rich, exotic brew that had the side effect of cleaning out the intestines. I could handle only two cups of the stuff before my internal organs would begin to twist and shout. Ten years after the breakup, I still keep a can of coffee with chicory in my freezer and dip into it every once in a while, toasting the memory of that boyfriend even as the abdominal twitching reminds me to thank God we’re no longer together.

Next I dated a man who was so particular about his coffee that we rarely made any at home, but traveled all over town, passing dozens of Caribous and Starbuck’s on the way to independent shops and bakeries where the baker/barista generally would greet him by name. These establishments no doubt sourced their beans from Dunn Brothers or McGarvey’s like everyone else, but he insisted that family ownership added authenticity. Although we decided to “just be friends” years ago, we still get together on occasion for a drive to one of our old favorite java huts.

Another boyfriend’s coffee ritual included blending organic, shade grown French roast beans with organic, shade grown, decaffeinated French roast beans and shaking the grinder like maracas to make sure the grounds combined thoroughly. Then he would perch a paper filter atop a decanter, dump a mound of coffee into the cone, and pour in boiling water bit by bit. Like the demise of our relationship, it was a tortuously slow process; but like our current friendship, which took some time to brew after the breakup, it was well worth the wait.

A subsequent object of my affection won me over, in part, by serving me a breakfast of bacon, eggs and authentic Italian cappuccino, perfected during a vacation in Rome. His secret weapon is a Japanese spoon that he uses to whip up the froth. I have never seen anything like it. Dutch by ancestry, this man notes with pride that his forefathers introduced coffee to Europe in the 16th Century. (Sigh. I’m a softie for a “man of the world.”) Of course that relationship has cooled (let’s just say he’s poured himself a fresh cup), but no matter. The memory of his cappuccino guarantees that we will forever be friends.

And friends are wonderful, indeed, but once again I find myself looking for more. Coffee, anyone?

©2004 Anne Nicolai

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