A wake-up call in a steamy cup

Jan 3, 2013 By Clair McFarland

My voice says 'good morning,' but my breath says 'bring it'

Coffee: in our society, the most fundamental drink besides water.

Usually served hot, and more aromatic than people and pets alike, coffee is the pot around which people gather (except in Colorado and Washington, where "pot" is the pot around which people gather).

To me, coffee is a brand-new staple. With the exception of some cream-and-sugar laden sludge I used to concoct at the church potlucks of my pre-pubescence, I had never been a coffee drinker until a few months ago.

And really, I only drank it in those days because it went so well with the sauerkraut, sauerkraut sandwiches, and sauerkraut rolls that formed the culinary canon of those potlucks.

However, mere months ago, my youngest son, who is not yet 1, decided that sleep is for losers. Burning with the desire to be perceived as a "winner" by he who is vogue enough to give our cat sloppy wet kisses and pair toothless smiles with his every digestive maneuver, I introduced coffee into my life of tentative lethargy.

Those first few mugs were mostly milk and brown sugar. I actually had to nuke the mug to heat the whole mixture back to piping from its lesser, milky state. Then I'd burn my hand on the outside of the mug and lose my nerve altogether.

Over time, though, I grew into a real "country" coffee drinker, guzzling that half-pot of scalding black coffee from a chipped mug, after having brushed my teeth for the morning.

That latter courtesy was so that the whole world could smell my alertness amidst my speech -- my voice would say "good morning to you," but my breath would say "bring it," toward which phrase I was already partial because my 2-year-old had been saying it to random objects.

This routine was the way of it, until my infant became a solid sleeper once again, and I decided to quit. Sip. And I decided to quit.

Morning One of caffeine abstinence went all right, but when lunchtime arrived, and I was tasked with feeding my husband on his lunch hour as well as preparing meals for my two sons and myself -- all this while holding my head somewhat perpendicular to the ground -- I considered hiding in the car and taking a nap instead.

No one would find me there for a half hour at least. Fortunately, I powered through the hour without succumbing to this temptation, for fear of my man and two boys ingesting -- in their hunger and their masculine disregard for those cultural elements which separate the husbands and children from the bachelors -- several pounds of summer sausage and cheese.

Don't get me wrong, the Husband could contrive a more traditional lunch if he wished, but "if" is the key here. By prying my eyes open and setting my Gevalia coffee machine to burbling, I was able to complete the otherwise easy task of making personalized meals for four people.

After my successful construction, consumption, and cleanup of food elements, I wondered if even the burbling sound of the coffee machine (which had, by that time, finished its loud brewing process) was a stimulant. There's got to be some scientific truth there, and I'm sure I could explain it, if Pavlov's dog had been hooked on coffee.

Anyway, because Morning One was only a success until the arrival of Afternoon One, I had to accept the reality of my state. I'm a coffee-drinker. This isn't so bad, except that some peers have taken pains to hint that this state of being is passť. It's really the thing these days to wake up to herbal tea, which is somehow better if it's still in its "cowboy" state, or not confined to a mesh bag.

In fact, the people who drink the loose tea grounds through their stainless steel mugs with built-in filters have an exclusive group, into which I could never hope to earn entrance.

They strain the muscles of their nostrils in order to draw one hint of scent from their green-tinged water, by which gesture their faces adopt a passionate bend. Then they tell their chums how long it's been since they've so much as looked at a can of Folger's.

Oh, that I could ever be so sensitive to the offerings of dehydrated tea leaves combined with honey combined with some sort of milk substitute!

In fact, there are less exclusive sub-cultures of coffee that I could claim with pride on a random survey. There are the decaf-drinkers, the snobs (those who match their coffee expenditures cent for cent with their retirement savings), and the event-crashers (those who go to local happenings based on the quality of the free coffee thereat).

Any of these sub-cultures is fine and classy, but now I must call out -- in good fun -- the egregious half-caf drinkers. Don't think you're fooling anyone, fence-riders. We all know you drink twice as much of the half-caffeinated coffee than you did of the fully-caffeinated stuff.

You won't ever catch me in that trap: I know who I am, what I am to drink, and how much of it I shall drink, and I've got the breath to prove it. Sip.

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