Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Coffee, and Southern Hospitality

Disclaimer: I've never lived any further north than North Carolina. The brief time I lived in Miami, Florida, was in 1959, when it was still mostly in the South.

But, I WAS in the Army, and say what you will about the Big Green Machine, it has put more boys and girls from the South in close proximity to boys and girls from the North than Amtrak and the interstate highway system combined.

And it was in the Army, from the lips of a lad from one of the boroughs of New York, that I first heard of  'a coffee.'

Now, I had grown up around coffee. Next to sweet tea, coffee is THE thing that was served most often as a beverage in Southern homes in the 1950's & 1960's. Maybe in palaces, Coke was served, but for those of us just running around bare-footed, a Coke was a dessert, not a drink. I was flabbergasted the first time I heard of someone drinking a Coke in the morning.

As a teen, I'd drop in to the neighborhood gathering house (they had teenage girls and Steppenwolf records), and I'd be greeted by the mom, "Hey, you want a cup of coffee?"

That wasn't at all unusual. It was the routine, and I absorbed it, and today, I offer coffee to the guys who come to fix the cable, as well as to friends and family. But, I never, ever, ever in my life offered someone 'A coffee.' It's always:

"Would you like SOME coffee?"
"Can I get you A CUP of coffee?"

I was thinking about that this morning, running through my memory to see if there was any time AT ALL that the formulation "A coffee" crossed my lips. At first, I thought I was free of that formulation, but then I realized, that there is ONE time when I use the phrase.

It's when I'm going through the drive through window at Starbucks, or some similar coffee emporium.

"Welcome to Starbucks, may I take your order?"
"Yeah, lemme have A venti coffee with double cream."

And it occurred to me: That's where the Yankees get it.

They get their coffee, to go, at diners. That's how you always see it in the movies and on TV, at least.

Tough cop show dialogue:

In the precinct: "Hey, Bennett, if you're going to the deli, get me a coffee and a danish."
At the crime scene: "Lew, Brody got us a bunch of coffees. You want one?"

They never visit each other in their houses, because everybody lives in the city, and there is a bodega on every corner and two delis per block. That's where coffee comes from. They don't have a sweet little old lady sitting on a couch, watching soap operas, offering the caffeine fix to everyone who comes through the door.

Nope. In the South, it's as much a ritual as it is refreshment; in the North, it's essential fuel to fight off the blizzards y'all experience 9 months out of the year, if you are a civilian; if you are a cop, it warms the fingers, so you can feel your gun and your pencil and pad to take notes and write tickets.

Now, I usually don't think that much about coffee, but lately, my system can't tolerate it. It jacks my metabolism and my blood sugar drops, so I've had to give it up. I'm drinking this silly lemon ginger probiotic herbal tea, now. It's okay.

It ain't as good as coffee, though.

Peace be on your household.

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