Jim Zumbo - Everything Outdoors
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Coffee, Me and Elephant Poop
Many years ago I saw a sign on the bulletin board in my daughter's college dorm. It said, "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits." So now that I'm convalescing from my open heart surgery, I often sits. Thinking, at least deep thinking, is often not a priority. I'm reminded of an English professor when I was in college. He was a bit strange, and at one point instructed us all to go outside and lie down in the grass. He asked us to focus on a single blade of grass and write as much about it that we could. So as I sit here, I look around and see my cup of coffee on the table. Taking a cue from the weird prof, I'll write about coffee. At least, whatever is worth writing about. Some info will be entertaining, some educational, and some worthless.
EARLY HISTORY. I don't know when I began drinking coffee, certainly when I was a teenager. Having been raised in the east, my coffee was violated with cream and sugar. If you ordered a coffee in a diner, it either came with sugar and milk on the side, or it was already mixed in. I believe that's pretty much the same today. So, when I moved west, I continued to drink sissy coffee. Most westerners drink their coffee black. My coffee preference changed when I went on the Scarsdale Diet. Now then, unless you have gray in your hair, you're probably unaware of the Diet. Breakfast was the same every day. BLACK coffee, a piece of toast, and half a grapefruit. The diet worked. I lost 40 pounds, and when I went to a writer's conference, many of my friends thought I'd contracted a terrible terminal disease. The doc that dreamed the diet up was shot to death in 1980 by a jealous mistress. That murder propelled the book into the limelight, until it was proven than the diet contributed to heart disease. So much for the Scarsdale Diet. But it was successful for me because I was converted to black coffee, and, living in the west, I wasn't teased anymore by my redneck buddies.
A FAMILY TRADITION. During my early years, our entire family gathered for dinners on the holidays. That included parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and a black sheep uncle who the women didn't like because he'd been fooling around on his wife. Dinner was always Italian, of course, with about 11 main courses. Well, almost. When dinner was winding down, the women would scurry back and forth to the kitchen, carrying away platters, dishes and silverware. And then came the demitasse, between the assorted nuts and homemade (dago red) wine. Now then, if you think you have experienced strong coffee, you ain't seen nothing until you've tried demitasse. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being strongest, it ranks a 12. Demitasse traditionally is served on a silver platter in a fancy, polished ornate silver pot, with several little tiny cups, similar to those that little girls would sip on at a make believe tea party. For an adult male, fingers could not fit in the little cup handles. You had to hold the cup delicately between thumb and index finger, where your pinky involuntarily sticks out. Quite the sight - manly men all slurping at their demitasse in delicate fashion. When the demitasse was done, out would come the cigars and after-dinner libations, notably anisette, an Italian liqueur tasting like licorice. I always believed the cigars and sweet drinks were necessary to wash away the vile taste of demitasse. As you may have gathered, I wasn't a fan of demitasse, but I had to go through the motions to maintain my role as a family member.
MOCHA AND LATTE WHAT? Not long ago, there were no espresso shacks scattered all over Everytown, USA, and people had to drink coffee that was available to them. That meant black or with cream and sugar. Nowadays you can drive up to a shack and order a concoction of flavors that will permanently disguise coffee to an unrecognizable state. Another change is the coffee served in convenience stores. Coffee is offered in many strengths, and often I have difficulty locating just a cup of everyday coffee. Makes me crazy.
HERS AND HIS Madonna puts cream in her coffee and prefers dark roast. Since I drink mine black, I like traditional roast. So is there a compromise? Nope. We have two coffee pots, side by side. It works.
COWBOY COFFEE This is the real deal, the coffee of all coffees. Many won't like it, but there is no choice if you want to be a real cowboy or cowgirl. Two things are mandatory-- a campfire with plenty of hot coals, and a pot. The real deal pot is an old battered, scorched pot with innards removed. Or an old equally beat up tea pot. So you dump in an unmeasured amount of water, an unmeasured amount of coffee that you scoop out of the container with your hands, and set the pot on the coals. When it boils over, you remove it from the coals and set it on the ground. If it's at night, be sure you set it on level ground, and not on a rock or log where it might tip over. Wait 30 seconds after it's removed from the coals, and dump in a little cold water to settle the grounds. There are no doubt other versions of cowboy coffee. Mine comes from countless nights sitting around campfires in real cow camps where the men would rather ride their horse to the outhouse rather than walk.
WHY SEATTLE? For some reason, Seattle is perceived to be the chosen place where coffee is king. I don't get it. Why Seattle, where rain is practically an every day occurrence in the winter, along with most other months of the year? You'd think a place like North Dakota would be the coffee capital, where below zero temps are common and snowmobilers frequently run into the top wires of utility poles ( because the snow drifts are 40 feet high). In fact, the weakest coffee I've ever had has been in the Dakotas. Go figure. Maybe Seattle is king because Starbucks is headquartered there. Starbucks cafés amuse me, especially in airports where people are usually in a hurry. I've yet to see one with less than five people in line, more like 15 or 20. And the servers run around busily, dumping various ingredients in containers and using machines making whirring and grinding noises. That reminds me of my oldest daughter who lives in the Seattle area. She has a coffee bean grinder that must weigh 20 pounds, and when in use, it emits more decibels than my chain saw. She wears ear protectors when she uses it. True story.
AND THE ELEPHANTS. Sit down when you read this. In some hotels in Thailand and on Maldives Island, you can order Black Ivory coffee. This is coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive systems of elephants. This is true. Check it out on your Google machine if you don't believe it. The enzymes in the elephant breaks down the protein in the beans. Coffee bean protein translates to bitter coffee. These beans are worth $1100 per kilo ( 2.2 pounds). A cup of elephant poop coffee will cost you $50. I wonder how many people will apply for the job having a title of coffee bean elephant poop extractor? I think I'd pass.
AND FINALLY. So where do I go if I want a quick cup of coffee when I'm on the road? McDonald's, of course. No lie. It's not bad stuff, in my opinion. And now you know everything you need to know about me, coffee, and elephant poop.Last modified on